Saturday 26 May 2018

Milly's death is almost beyond comprehension

Milly Tuomey's shocking suicide shows that children have been left behind by the mental health movement

'Suicide rates for both genders spike in the autumn and spring when the pressures of returning to school and of facing into exams are at their highest' (stock photo)
'Suicide rates for both genders spike in the autumn and spring when the pressures of returning to school and of facing into exams are at their highest' (stock photo)
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Milly Tuomey was a beautiful child, the kind that you might expect to see in a film or in an ad campaign. Her cherubic looks should have been beside the point last week but her unhappiness with them gave the story of her suicide another disturbing texture. Her youth was the most shocking part of all, however.

We have, through some famous cases over the years, absorbed the idea of teen suicide, but the idea of an 11-year-old killing themselves is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, according to psychiatrist Dr Antoinette D'Alton, who addressed the coroner's court during Milly's case last week, suicidal ideation is "increasing in children as young as seven".

Even in a country where suicide among adults has bedded down to become a sort of accepted scourge, this was a shocking, stark statement. And in it contained a terrible riddle: one of the biggest social changes in Irish society over the past 40 years - at least on the surface - has been bringing children from the 'seen and not heard' fringes to the heart of society. They have their own government minister. Their fathers take a much bigger role in their upbringings. They are cherished like never before. How, one might wonder, has all of this also been paralleled by a huge increase in the number of young people feeling depressed and, in some cases, killing themselves?

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