Mother spreads suicide awareness after daughter struggling in lockdown takes own life

Matt Hancock promises to 'work' to help suicide prevention

Annie Arkwright, 50, spoke out following the death of her “vibrant” daughter Lily as new figures show the number of people contacting young people’s suicide charity Papyrus jumped 25 percent in October and in November – immediately after new lockdowns were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Annie and son Jonty are campaigning to “break down the barriers about suicide” and warn: “No family is immune – this could happen to any of us.”

Lily, a second year history student, had told her mother about her increasing struggle to cope with lockdown measures. She ended her life in October.

Ms Arkwright said: the “light and the life” had begun to drain from her 19-year-old daughter as Covid restrictions closed in.

She said: “Lily was a very conscientious girl and the lockdown measures had an effect on her anxiety levels. She had never suffered with anxiety before and was outgoing, engaging and very well liked. She was concerned about the quality of her work, reaching her deadlines and her future.

“During lockdown her social life was curtailed.

“The restrictions put her into a physical and emotional situation she would never otherwise have experienced – as is the case for so many of us this year. She was losing confidence and was not her normal vibrant self. She didn’t know where to turn.”

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She added: “Students are disproportionately affected by lockdown. Many already are working so hard. They are already worried about the future and want to do well and this adds to their anxieties. For Lily the combined pressures created a perfect storm together with a potential lack of support as the counselling clearly didn’t address her needs.”

She and her 17-year-old son, Jonty, are now campaigning for more openness and awareness of the suicide risk in young people.

She said: “My son and I want the tragedy of Lily’s death to help break down the barriers about suicide and try to promote a better understanding of it. I’ve lost my world. We are speaking out to raise awareness and prevent other deaths. Never has this been more relevant.”

“Lily said she was feeling trapped by the restrictions so we agreed she should come home and she arrived back on the 18 October last year.

“She was tired and quiet when she came home. I cooked her a roast dinner which she always loved. I gave her a hot water bottle and an extra duvet when she went to bed. I said “goodnight darling” and that was the last thing I said to her.

“It’s hard to reconcile the memory of my vibrant, dynamic daughter with her whole life ahead of her, with the tragedy of her death. Friends have described her as a ray of light who spread joy and energy.

“We want to spread that energy in this message to keep families talking and to urge students and young people to keep communicating; to reach out; to family, friends and confidential help lines.

“People might think talking about suicide might put the idea in someone’s head. But you shouldn’t wait for tangible signs or think you would know because that isn’t always the way it is.

“The fact is young people are experiencing the negative effects of lockdown restrictions to their lives and social lives and this is enough of a driver from their norm for it to be a serious problem.

“We have to give them the opportunity to talk about mental health and say the word suicide – as long as we talk and engage in an appropriate way.

“No family is immune and this could happen to any of us. Lockdown has increased the risk and I believe if lockdown had not happened Lily would still be alive.”

Her call comes as the Prevention of Young Suicide charity Papyrus revealed the number of people contacting its organisation jumped by a quarter immediately after each of the two latest lockdown announcements by Boris Johnson – one at the end of October and the other in early November.

Although the charity is restricted from revealing exact figures, it receives hundreds of texts, emails and calls every week.

Chief Executive Ged Flynn said lockdown restrictions have a major impact on people of all ages:

He said: “Sudden change is always a challenge for us as human beings. As the new lockdown restrictions are imposed, and with short notice, some people can experience significant distress. This is a wholly natural grief response to sudden change; but we know that some young people may well feel trapped while others feel cut off from their support systems.

“These feelings can lead to despair for some young people. We want them to know that we are here for them, throughout Christmas and the New Year and indeed every day of the year.

“Suicide is real. It is not inevitable. Working together, in tough times like these, we can all help our young people to stay suicide-safe and enable life to flourish again.”

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: “We are aware of the very sad death of our student.

“The University has been in contact with the immediate family and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to them at this extremely distressing time.

“We know the coronavirus pandemic has presented everyone, including our students, with unprecedented challenges and pressures. We have put in place additional counselling and well-being support.”

Suicide figures for last year 2020 are still not available but the charity wants young people to know they are not alone and stresses that help is available.

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