10 September 2020
A picture of Suicide Prevention Day: My cousin Amy – by Nicola Gamble

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September).

We’re committed to supporting our colleagues and customers with their mental health and helping reduce stigma around talking openly about how we feel.

One of our employees, Nicola Gamble, Senior Employee Benefits Administrator – Reward, talks openly about her personal experience with a family member committing suicide at such a young age.

Nicola Gamble with her husband and young family.Nicola and her family enjoying a family day out

Imagine having a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin or friend that one day just doesn’t wake up. Now imagine that is due to them taking their own life because they could not believe that things would ever get better. This is exactly what happened in my family.

Being bullied

At the young age of 14, my cousin believed that life would never get better due to being bullied. She was bullied in school, outside of school, over social media and by phone. Amy felt like there was no escape.

Amy was a beautiful, bright young girl who had her whole life ahead of her. She loved to sing and dance and had a loving family. Before the bullying started she was always laughing and joking and shone from within. As in many cases of bullying, it escalated from such a small insignificant thing. A boy liked Amy instead of another girl. Unfortunately, this snowballed into becoming more than just about a boy who drove Amy to be absent from school for a long period of time. Amy had been prescribed two different types of antidepressants by her doctor to help her with how low she was feeling.

Losing Amy

On 27  September 2004 Amy and her Mum had had a conversation about her returning to school. Amy did not want to return to school until she knew who was in her classes. After the conversation, Amy went upstairs to her bedroom but apologised before she left the room. Her mum went to check on her at around 3.15 pm and heard her breathing heavily so assumed she was asleep. At 5.15 pm she went to check on her again and discovered that Amy’s lips were blue and she had a pale complexion. An ambulance was called and Amy was rushed to hospital where staff fought to save her life but she was confirmed dead at 6.15 pm.

I will never forget the moment my Mum told me what happened. I was 15 at the time and it felt like my whole world imploded. It didn’t feel real. Stuff like this only happens in movies, it doesn’t happen to “normal” families. Our immediate family all met at my Nan’s house and we all sat up all night sobbing and trying to come to terms that this was reality. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back.

Amy had not told anyone that she felt suicidal. She had kept all of those feelings to herself. She had written diaries with daily accounts of how she was feeling and what she was going through. Some of her personal possessions such as her phone, her computer and the diaries were taken as evidence by the police while they conducted a thorough search into Amy’s life. Amy’s body had to have a full post mortem to discover the cause of death. It was confirmed in the corners report that the cause of death was an overdose of one of her anti-depressants. During the police search of Amy’s computer, it was discovered that Amy had been researching the best way to commit suicide and what would happen if she took an overdose of the tablets she was on. Amy had been planning this for quite some time.

Amy had written a heartfelt and beautiful letter to everyone who was important to her life in her final hours. I still have my letter which I keep in a box of memories of all the lovely times me and Amy spent growing up together. It still breaks my heart to look through that box.

The impact on our family

There is still such a huge mix of emotions that as a family we all go through, even now 16 years later. Guilt that we could have done something to stop her, anger at the fact that she had done this and soul-crushing sadness at the loss of someone we loved so unexpectedly. The emotions just went round in circles and could appear at any moment.

Even when you were trying not to think about it and trying to carry on with the new version of “normal” life, in the first week that followed it was impossible. Amy’s death was reported on ITV and BBC local news. It was on the front page of the local newspapers. Seeing a photo of my beautiful cousin, that I would never get to talk to or hug again, appear when you least expected it was so painful. People wouldn’t know what to say to you so either avoided you or didn’t say anything at all.

Amy’s funeral was the most painful experience I have been through. Having to say goodbye to someone who was so young and felt that helpless to end their life by suicide was torturous. It took place on 15th October 2004. The church was full and many people had to stand outside. Amy believed she was not popular and there was no one there for her but this proved the contrary. Amy was more loved than she ever realised. There were four pop songs, which were Amy’s favourites, played at the funeral. I still can not listen to these songs without having a sinking feeling in my stomach.

A woman sits on a swing, reaching out to the empty swing beside her.

We, as a family, have never recovered from Amy’s death. Her Mum and her Sisters have been worst affected. Her Mum used to visit her grave every day just to still feel close to her. The first Christmas after her death was cancelled as none of us felt like celebrating. On her birthday and the anniversary of her death, we all still think about her and do something to mark the days. The pain never goes away it just dulls over the years.

If Amy had spoken to someone and received the help she needed she may still be here today. She would have celebrated her 30th birthday this year, may have had a career or a family or both. It is heartbreaking that Amy will never get to experience so many wonderful moments that happen as you grow older. Amy will never have a graduation, a wedding day, holding her baby for the first time, holidays with friends or the freedom of being an adult. Due to the decision Amy made to take her own life the people that loved her will never see her grow into the person she was meant to become.

Reaching out to others

For anyone who has suicidal thoughts or feelings please talk to someone. You may feel like you are alone, unworthy or there is no way out but that is wrong. As in Amy’s case, she didn’t know just how loved she was and her loss has destroyed each and every person who loved her in their own personal way. If you have been affected by suicide my heart goes out to you. The pain of the loss is one of kind. If you are still grieving please seek help as there are some amazing support networks that can help with the bereavement after a suicide.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. It has been a painful process to relive this time but if this story can help just one person then it will be more than worth it.

Take the step to speak to someone about how you're feeling at any time, there are a number of websites for further information including: https://www.samaritans.org/

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