A Perth schoolgirl who tragically took her own life after allegedly being the subject of bullying and racism sent friends a heartbreaking message just hours before she attempted suicide.
On New Year's Day, Rochelle Pryor, 14, was rushed to Perth Children's Hospital where she died nine days later.
Rochelle sent several friends a message on social media, just hours before her father found her unconscious in her bedroom, The Australian reports.
"Once I'm gone, the bullying and the racism will stop," she wrote.
The teen had reportedly been involved in an altercation outside her school gates at Fremantle College in August last year. According to her mother, Wendy Paterson, she came home with severe cuts on her legs.
"After that happened, she was upset and scared and said she didn't want to go to school anymore," Paterson said.
"She really went downhill."
Kyanne Pryor, 17, told the newspaper her little sister was "sweet, happy and funny" but that her friends had "turned against her" and she was being bullied.
"She was really upset by it," Kyanne, 17, told The Australian.
"There was racism involved — a lot of the time it was just random people who don't realise what they're saying."
A WA Police spokeswoman said the incident was being investigated by police and all parties were interviewed. No charges were laid following the investigation, she said.
The WA Education Department declined to comment on the bullying allegations or on the incident last August.
Rochelle's death comes amid fears of a rising suicide rate among Aboriginal children in Australia.
She was the fifth indigenous girl in the country to die by suicide in nine days this month.
The wave of tragedies started to unfold on January 3, when a 15-year old girl from Western Australia died two days after self-harming on a visit to see family in Townsville, Queensland.
The next day, a 12-year old girl died in the Pilbara mining town of Port Hedland in WA, followed by a 14-year old girl in the state's East Kimberley community of Warmun on January 6.
A 15-year-old Noongar girl from Perth then died by suicide on January 10 and a 12-year-old girl from a town near Adelaide took her life the following day.
On January 14, a 12-year-old indigenous boy from Roma, in the south west of Outback Queensland, survived a suicide attempt and was being treated in a Brisbane hospital last week.
"Come back please"
Friends have paid tribute to Rochelle, who loved animals and dreamt of going to university.
One fellow student wrote on Instagram: "My vision is so blurry from my tears … come back please.
"The last day we were talking about what colour you should dye your hair and you were thinking about … blue or purple.
"If I knew that was your last day, I would do anything to stop you.
"I remember telling you whenever you weren't in the right mindset I would repeat telling you 'I'm always here for you'."
What's going on?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found last month that indigenous children aged between five and 17 died from suicide-related deaths at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
This rate was 10.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017, compared with 2 deaths by suicide per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children.
One in four people who took their own life before turning 18 were Aboriginal children.
A senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.
Gerry Georgatos, who heads up the federal government's indigenous critical response team, wrote in The Guardian that "suicides are predominantly borne of poverty and disparities".
He described rural communities as being disparate from the rest of Australian society, where high incarceration rates infect communities, few complete schooling, employment is scant and "all hope is extinguished".
He also said sexual abuse and self harm played a role in the suicides, with the recent spate of young girls taking their own lives being "notable".
Earlier this month, indigenous health minister, Ken Wyatt, told NITV News the federal government will continue to invest $3.9 billion over the next three years (from 2018-22) in Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission regionally and culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services, particularly in the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions.
The West Australian Government has advised that co-ordinators have been installed in every region of the state, alongside Aboriginal mental health programs.
These programs were introduced after a 2007 inquiry into 22 suicides across the Kimberley. The inquiry found the suicide rate was not due to mental illness such as "bipolar or schizophrenia" and that Aboriginal suicide was not for the most part attributable to individual mental illness.
It noted that the suicide rate, which had "doubled in five years", was attributable to a governmental failure to respond to many reports.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757