United Kingdom

Teen wrote note begging family ‘not to be ashamed’ before taking her own life

Devastated Tim Owen will never get over the loss of his beloved daughter Emily… but every day, her last words spur him on.

As the 19-year-old lay in intensive care, Tim found a letter which begged the family “not to be ashamed” of her actions.

Emily wrote: “I don’t mind people knowing about what happened to me if it will help them before it’s too late.”

The teenager took her own life. But her message has given Tim, 51, purpose.

Today, as he tells his daughter’s story on World Mental Health Day, Tim says he believes Emily – “the life and soul” of the family – would be alive but for the pressures brought by lockdown.

Have you struggled with your mental health in lockdown? Email [email protected] to tell your story



Dad Tim with a young Emily
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DAILY MIRROR)




He tells us: “Lockdown was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Emily.

“I’m convinced if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, she would still be with us.

“She had been looking forward to her future and had made plans for it.”

Tim and other grieving parents are speaking out in support of the Mirror’s week-long HeadStrong campaign.

We want the Government to ensure better mental health support after a poll found one in four people have suffered during the pandemic.



Tim and Emily in a treasured pic
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It comes as one in 20 teens admitted having suicidal thoughts during the pan-demic. And the National Child Mortality Database reveals 193 likely childhood deaths by suicide in the last 20 months.

In the 82 days leading up to the nationwide shutdown, 26 children are believed to have taken their own lives.

In the first 56 days of lockdown, the figure was 25, according to the NCMD.

An inquest heard Emily was happily working in her local pub in Shouldham, Norfolk – then her mood changed as coronavirus took its grip in March 2020.



Charity walks help Tim, Mike and Andy
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Tim says: “She became full of worry at news of the pandemic. We had family members in Italy, where it was initially really bad. We were talking at home about what could be coming round the corner, and this concerned her. She began to feel as if her world was closing in and found it overwhelming.”

Emily had suffered from mental health issues, including anxiety, for several years. A late diagnosis of high-functioning autism at the age of 16 had proved a “relief” and she began to make plans for the future.

She wanted to become a healthcare assistant or go into nursing.

Tim goes on: “Emily lived life at a million miles an hour and thrived on being social. With her autism, it had to be on her own terms and she liked her quiet time too, but she liked her freedom. She was working and went to the gym, which helped her mental health.”




Cathryn lost Ben at age 15




A few days before a partial lockdown on March 16, Tim’s household went into their own quarantine as some family members had developed coughs, a Covid symptom.

Emily became “very, very agitated”. She died on March 22. Tim adds: “She’d started worrying about her job. The freedom of being able to do things she loved seemed to be being taken away. It seemed to her like the pandemic was going to ruin her life and she was completely unable to cope. If she’d talked to somebody such as a professional, I’m sure she’d have been able to pull herself back from the brink. For a lot of teenagers, it was frightening. Catching Covid wasn’t her biggest risk – mental health repercussions were.”

That was also true of Sam Tyler, just 14 when he took his own life at home in Nuneaton, Warks. It was May 2020.



Sam Tyler died at 14
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Mum Tracey says: “We were struggling as adults to cope when we went into lockdown and I think it’s hard for kids being out of routine. I think schools being closed had a major part of what happened with Sam – he felt so isolated. I believe if he’d been at school, in a routine, it wouldn’t have happened.” Tracey, 40, is campaigning for better mental health provision in schools – a key issue in our HeadStrong campaign.

Another grieving mum – Cathryn Ambrose, from Rochester, Kent – is studying psychology with the hope of working in schools and encouraging children to talk about their mental health.

Cathyrn lost son Ben, 15, to suicide in May 2020. He had ADHD and had waited more than two years for an autism assessment. His mum said the pandemic had turned his life “upside down” – and she told his inquest she was concerned about support available to children following the outbreak of Covid-19.


The Daily Mirror is launching our new campaign HeadStrong: Better Mental Health For All.

We’re calling for:

  • Early Access Mental Health Hubs for under 25s to be rolled out across the country, with at least one for each trust.
  • Waiting times to be cut so people actually start treatment with a professional within four weeks
  • The Govt to fill in the gaps in care – an end of red tape which means many don’t fit the set criteria to get help plus 8,500 more mental health staff
  • Compulsory Mental Health education lessons in schools, plus paid counsellors in schools and care homes

Want to help? Write to your MP and ask them to support the current Early Day Motion 459 to debate mental health and the pandemic in parliament.




Access the Mirror’s mental health resource hub

She says: “I don’t think Ben had the capacity or toolkit to manage his emotions. I think if he had been seen before then he would have been provided with that. Had he been helped earlier I have no doubt he would still be with me.”

Senior therapist Sally Baker has seen a rise in self-harm and suicidal thoughts among teenage clients. She says: “It feels nobody is listening to this age group. Adults – and the Government – have been focused on schooling rather than them being able to have fun or spend time with friends. If a teenager’s mental health is not stable, it doesn’t matter what their grades are.”









Tim Owen has since formed 3 Dads Walking, takling charity hikes with two other fathers who lost children to suicide. Andy Airey, from Morland, Cumbria, lost daughter Sophie, 29, at the end of 2018. Mike ­Palmer’s daughter Beth, from Sale, Gtr Manchester, was 17 when she took her life in March 2020. The trio are currently on a 300-mile walk – boosted by a £10,000 donation from James Bond star Daniel Craig.

Tim says the group has helped him cope – but he will never come to terms with losing Emily He says: “You spend a long time thinking about what you could have done differently or said to save their lives.”

Official figures can’t provide a definitive link between suicide and the pandemic.



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But UK charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide fears vulnerable young people have missed out on vital support.

Chief executive Ged Flynn says: “While there is no reliable, statistical evidence of a link between lockdown and an increase in suicide, we know more young people were feeling lonely, distressed and struggling to cope. It is important young people know they are not alone and help is available.”

How to get help: If you are struggling or you are worried about a loved one, contact Samaritans on 116123. For more advice visit nhs.uk/mental-health or www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus

See more HeadStrong Lives, including a Children’s special with child psychiatrist Lopa Winters and Mumfluencer Lorna Cobbett (@mummylovesessie), Samaritans Advice Clinic, and a Men’s Mental Health Special with Alastair Campbell and BDD sufferer and War Paint For Men and JAAQ.co.uk founder Danny Gray at facebook.com/dailymirror/videos


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