Parents of tragic Milly Toumey remember their 'unique little character'

By Cillian Sherlock

The parents of Milly Toumey, who died by suicide when she was 11 in January last year, have appeared on the Late Late Show to speak about their terrible tragedy and how they believe we are failing young people with mental health issues.

Fiona and Tim Tuomey told viewers more needs to be done to help prevent other families suffering similar tragedies.

Last January, Milly, who was unhappy with her physical appearance, posted on her Instagram account of her intention to die.

"My father says it was like a grenade in the family going off. The shrapnel hits everybody," Milly's father Tim said.

Her mother, Fiona, said Milly was a special child with an "abundance of talent".

"Milly was funny and mischievous. She was sporty. She had an abundance of talent. She played piano. She loved to ice-skate, skating up to competition standard. She spoke three languages fluently at 11. She was pretty special. She was a unique little character," she said.

She described learning of Milly's suicidal ideation as "a bolt out of the blue".

A coroner returned a verdict of suicide at the inquest into the Dublin 6 girl's death. She died on January 4, 2016.

Milly, from Templeogue, posted on Instagram to hundreds of friends of her intention to die on a certain date.

Her parents were alerted by her elder sister and her school.

"We had a conversation and had a chat with her to try and find out was there something behind it, was it serious, was it looking for attention," Fiona said.

"There's no preparation for something like that. She didn't dismiss it and she was a little evasive about it. That didn't provide me with assurance one way or the other. I didn't know what to make of it," she added.

"I found her very calm. That was even harder to deal with in a sense," Tim added.

"That was unnerving," Fiona agreed.

They took Milly to see their GP and during this visit Milly expressed a death wish. She spoke about thoughts of self-harm and said she had been unhappy with her physical appearance for a number of years.

"She articulated that she thought about killing herself. That was as much detail as she gave. We explored was there a reason, was there bullying or something that had happened we had missed. But there was absolutely nothing we could identify - no sign of any trigger that you would expect," Fiona said.

Her GP recommended she see a clinical psychologist at An Cuan, a private counselling and psychotherapy clinic. The Tuomeys made an appointment but the psychologist was no longer taking patients. Milly was assigned to an art therapist, who was not qualified to make clinical assessments, the inquest heard.

The child began a series of weekly appointments on November 24 2015 where she was encouraged to explore her emotions through verbal and visual means.

After Milly’s first visit, the therapist advised Mrs Tuomey to make an appointment with the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Milly was in the 97th percentile of risk per her CAMHS assessment forms, her mother said.

"We weren't empowered to have the conversation we know you should have," Fiona said.

An appointment was made for January 30 2016 but this was brought forward after Mrs Twomey found a ‘suicide diary’ along with medication indicating an attempt at self-harm under her daughter’s bed.

"She had drawings and had written down ideas for how she was going to end her life, different methods she had thought about using. That was beyond horrifying. There aren't any words to describe what that does to you as a parent to think about your child in that amount of pain for any reason"

"You'd nearly prefer a reason. I mean we understand now there could be a myriad of reasons," she added.

“She’d cut herself and written in biro on herself, ‘beautiful girls don’t eat’,” Mrs Tuomey previously told the court.

“We were terrified. We had no experience of this and no idea what to do,” she said.

The family was advised to go to their local emergency department if any concerns arose over Christmas or out of hours.

Tim spoke about approaching the topic with his daughter.

"I asked Milly to come with me [to walk the dogs]. For all of us as parents, we all want take away the pain of our children. We went for a walk in the park. I decided to try and talk about positive things and the future and what she was interested in.

"She spoke about ambitions that she had. It was a really nice walk over an hour and a half. I decided since it had gone so well and because she had been so funny and jokey and positive that I would try and broach the topic of how she had been feeling.

"I thanked her for the walk. I said: 'You know that stuff you've been saying recently. You don't feel like that all the time, do you?'

"She stared just blankly at me and said: 'Yes. All the time'. I was pretty crushed by that. It was the first time I looked at her and realised I don't know how to help her".

The court heard that on January 1 2016 the family ate dinner together and watched a film. That evening, Milly declared she was bored and left the room.

"On the night, she said: 'Don't forget tomorrow we have to go to Dundrum to get the new hockey stick'," Tim said.

She was found moments later in a critical condition and emergency services were called. She was rushed to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital where she died on January 4.

"Unfortunately she didn't recover and four days later she passed away. She donated her organs and saved five lives," Fiona added.

The family hoped to raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide in Ireland.

"We wanted to get across the message that you don't know. People think of depression as a big glaring sign across someone's forehead," Milly's mother said.

"The fact that she died after six weeks of first mentioning it. The level of responsibility that we feel and I feel I'll have for the rest of my life is very heavy. We needed the professionals to tell us what to do," Tim said.

"It's to try to get some change going," he added.

He also spoke about life after their daughter's death.

"You're living in the same world. I was back in work two and a half weeks later. I don't work for myself. It was very surreal for months like that. It's like a train on the tracks and it's going forward. You've gone off the tracks slightly but you have to keep going forward."

The family had previously said Milly had hopes and dreams to become a 'famous doctor,’ get married and have children.

“When I am 23 I would like to have my first baby and when I’m 24 my second baby. If I have two girls I want to call them Vanessa and Grace Tuomey,” she wrote in her diary.

If you have been affected by this issues raised in this article, help and support is available from the Samaritans on freephone 116123, or email jo@samaritans.org or Freecall Pieta House at 1800 247 247.


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