Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Kiwi mother speaks of danger of verbal bullying after 12-year-old daughter tries to end her life

Mother said she had no idea how affected her daughter was by a classmate's taunts until it was almost too late. Photo / 123RF
Mother said she had no idea how affected her daughter was by a classmate's taunts until it was almost too late. Photo / 123RF

A Kiwi mother is warning of the dangers of cruel words after her bullied 12-year-old daughter tried to end her own life.

In an interview with the Herald on Sunday this week, the woman said she had no idea how affected her daughter was by a classmate's taunts until it was almost too late.

"It was just words; mean words, things like 'you're ugly' and 'you're a weirdo' and telling her no one liked her," said the mother, who has not been named to protect the girl's identity.

"I did the same thing probably many parents would do [and said] 'is there any way you can ignore it sweetheart? She's just being silly; you know what she's saying's not true'.

"I didn't think at the time it was that major but little kids seem to hold it in and make it a much bigger deal."

It was her daughter's second brush with death. She nearly died during birth, but this incident was "much, much scarier", the solo mother said.

She found her daughter on her bedroom floor early on September 1.

Her arms and legs were flailing, her eyes were glazed over and her heart was beating rapidly.

The girl's 2-year-old cousin, who lives with the family, was leaning over her, asking if she was okay.

Her mother, shaking, moved her daughter into the hallway, put her on her side and called an ambulance.

"The paramedics came in, took one look at her, wrapped her in a blanket and took off. They said there was no time to muck around.

"She had hallucinations; she didn't know who anyone was, not even me. She couldn't move her left side for days and her heart wouldn't slow down."

The bullying began months ago. The girls' teacher learned of it and tried to intervene by speaking with the girls and their mothers.

"I thought it had all been sorted. We're normally really close, but she didn't say anything.

"She was a bit cuddly the night before and I asked her if anything was wrong, but she said, 'nope, I'm fine'.

"No one saw this coming. I'm still in shock."

The mother stayed glued to her daughter's side while she was in hospital. "I couldn't leave her, not even for a minute. I said when you're ready to talk, I'll be here."

Three days after being hospitalised, her daughter said her actions were motivated by her honest belief no one liked her.

"I don't know she completely knew what she was doing but she certainly gave herself a hell of a fright."

The woman warned other parents to never tell their children to simply try and ignore bullying.

"I heard about a 14-year-old boy who ended his life while my daughter was in hospital fighting for hers. It was too real."

Her daughter was released from hospital after almost a week. She is not expected to suffer long-term physical health effects.

"The paramedics and doctors said she is one lucky, lucky kid. If she had been left any longer, she probably wouldn't be here."

In 2012, the most recent year provisional data is available, 13 Kiwi kids under 15 died by suicide - the highest number since records began in 1950.

That year, kids under 15 were hospitalised 138 times for intentional self-harm.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 Oct 2016 15:53:05 Processing Time: 643ms