Megan Evans had suffered “relentless” abusive messages on her phone from bullies all through the night.
In what would be a final heartbreaking exchange, the schoolgirl was told to go “hang yourself” to which the 14-year-old replied: “OK.”
She was found dead at her home after a secret battle against the cyber bullies, which she had kept hidden from her parents, reports WalesOnline.
Her mum, Nicola Harteveld, said she thinks it was “the final message that did tip the scales”.
Nicola admits she did not know the signs that her daughter was struggling, but she can look back now knowing “one million per cent” she would do things differently.
Supplied by family)
Describing her teen daughter as “beautiful, kind, vivacious, funny, hugely popular and confident”, she said: “I can see things blindingly obvious now that I didn’t have a clue back then.
“I was completely naïve about it, that I always thought that somebody with a mental health problem, you could visibly see it. If your kids were struggling, they’d be in their room, wearing black, listening to dark music- that was my stupid perception of it back then.
“My bright bubbly Meg, if she came to me and said she had an issue, I’d say: ‘Meg get a grip, don’t be so daft, just deal with it.’ That’s what I would’ve probably said and I can openly say that, which is why I want to speak out. I was so wrong, mental health does not look like how I thought it did.”
Adrian White Photography)
It will be five years since Megan’s death on February 7. Unbeknown to Nicola at the time, she was receiving a tirade of abusive messages that were “cruel, evil words – name calling, getting inside her head with relentless mean comments”.
Just days after Megan’s funeral, Nicola bravely appeared on ITV’s This Morning where Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby were moved to tears when they heard what had happened to her.
“When I went on This Morning, I don’t remember much about that at all, I just wanted people to realise this was something we all needed to be mindful of, because I didn’t have a clue,” said Nicola with a remarkable strength gained from the work she’s done since her daughter’s death, including embarking on a psychology degree with Essex University.
Mental health support
Helplines and support groups
The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PANDAS (0808 1961 776) runs a free helpline and offers a support service for people who may be suffering with perinatal mental illness, including prenatal (antenatal) and postnatal depression plus support for their family or network.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
Amparo provides emotional and practical support for anyone who has been affected by a suicide. This includes dealing with police and coroners; helping with media enquiries; preparing for and attending an inquest and helping to access other, appropriate, local support services. Call 0330 088 9255 or visit www.amparo.org.uk for more details.
- Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
- Young Persons Advisory Service – Providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. tel: 0151 707 1025 email: email@example.com
- Paul’s Place – providing free counselling and group sessions to anyone living in Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Martin Gallier Project – offering face to face support for individuals considering suicide and their families. Opening hours 9.30-16.30, 7 days a week. Tel: 0151 644 0294 email: email@example.com
“Hand on heart, I probably wouldn’t have taken her seriously because I didn’t know,” she continued. “She was lively, she was the life and soul of a party, the life and soul of the house, I did not see a thing. I won’t forgive myself for the rest of my life for it.”
Nicola says she now can see the signs: “She was sleeping a lot in the day because she was being kept awake at night by these messages, but I didn’t see that then, ” she said.
“The secrecy with her phone – she would literally not let her phone from her hands, and I would think that was a bit weird now, but then, not a clue.”
With seven children aged between 10 and 20, Nicola is proud they’ve all managed to come out the other side of losing Megan.
Nicola, who admits she was angry for many months afterwards, can barely grasp that it’s been five years already.
They’ve marked each of her birthdays and while Megan’s picture beams out from many photo frames in the family home, Nicola still can’t bear to watch videos of her.
Adrian White Photography)
“Megan’s birthday is in November so November is horrible,” she said. “I hate Christmas for obvious reason and then January because I know it’s going to be the anniversary, it’s a terrible terrible month. You just get over Christmas and then you’ve got that gut-wrenching thing, you know it’s coming. Those four months are awful.”
One thing that’s helped Nicola through those tough months is Step into January – a campaign to get active during January to improve both physical and mental health.
Taking part in the 10,000 steps a day challenge helps raise funds for the mental health charity, the Megans Starr foundation, which Nicola set up in the wake of her daughter’s death.
The foundation offers peer support to parents, young people and families struggling with mental health. Built using self and public funding initiatives, it now offers free BCAP professional counselling sessions for vulnerable young people around Pembrokeshire, where Megan lived with her family.
Adrian White Photography)
“During the pandemic we found there was a breakdown because the parents didn’t understand why their kids were in their rooms all the time,” said Nicola.
“But they don’t understand that these kids are so social these days, and when they’re locked in their rooms and not in school, they’re going to be on their phones, because that’s their link to the outside world.
“Some young people are experiencing mental health issues for the first time and many others who had previously existing conditions, are having to cope with exacerbated feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and helplessness. We are there to provide peer support and professional counselling to help cope with these feelings.”
It’s a comfort to Nicola that she can do something positive in Megan’s memory.
“She’d be 19 now and I think all the time what would she be doing,” she said.
“I see her friends and what they’re doing. I know Meg would have had a job, gone to college, she was really independent, she was focused, she was going to be a career woman.”
The Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org or head to the website to find your nearest branch. You matter.