The heartbroken sister of a Hervey Bay teen who suicided earlier this year has revealed how she had desperately sought help in the days before she took her own life – including a hospital admission just one month earlier.
Tayesha Huggett was only 14 when she sent a final text to her older sister Chi Magee: “I love you Chi.”
By the time Ms Magee made the anxious drive to her sister, it was too late.
“I was just in shock really,” Ms Magee said of the moment she made it to Tay.
“It’s all such a blur, it was so traumatic. I was distraught. You don’t sleep or eat for days and it takes months to accept. Even now it’s been seven months and I know it’s happened but it still feels like a dream. I know it happened but I still can’t accept it’s a real memory.”
Maryborough State High School student Tayesha Huggett took her own life.
Tay, who was just one week off turning 15 the day she took her own life, had struggled with depression and mental health issues for about a year.
She had tried to access services, and was on a waitlist to get into a psychologist.
In the month before her death, Ms Magee said her sister had attempted suicide and been admitted for one night to the Hervey Bay Hospital. The next day, she was released from hospital following a mental health assessment via Zoom.
“A month before she passed she self harmed badly as a suicide attempt so I was at the hospital with her then, and then she had to do a Zoom call with a mental health assessor to see if she was good to go. They told me they would follow up the next day about medication or counselling and what happens next.”
Ms Magee claims that never happened.
Chi’s sister Tay suicided at 14 years old after trying desperately to get mental health assistance. She said Tay had a good support network of family and friends, including her older brother- who was at home asleep in the room next to Tay at the time she suicided late into the evening one April night.
Ms Magee said there was only so much Tay’s support network could do.
“There were so many times I had to drive to her, there were so many times I distracted her and kept her busy and cheered her up, but there’s only so much I can do,” Ms Magee said.
“For people with ill mental health, there’s only so much anyone can do. They have to want the help and to get better. And she did that. She wanted help and she wanted to get better, and it was the system that failed her. They let her down.”
Ms Magee said teenage mental health is not taken seriously, and it had now become her passion to work alongside mental health services that specifically cater to teens.
“With young teens it’s not taken seriously enough, people think it’s like a cry for attention or something,” Ms Magee said, “I’m very frustrated. Because she just wanted help. She had so many people around her, she had support and she would come to me. She needed professional help.
“Tay told her friend: ‘I don’t want to die, I just want help.’ She said so many times she just wanted to stop hurting.”
Borderline, a non-for-profit charity specifically tailored to offering youth camps to teens doing it tough, heard of Tay’s story a few months ago.
“It is so important that we embrace the life of Tay and start doing more for our young people,” Borderline founder Cody Schaeffer said.
“Tay was put on a ‘waiting list’ because there just weren’t the services available to help her when she needed it. She lived in a remote area of Queensland too, which makes it even worse.”
Mr Schaeffer, who is the Queensland nominee for Young Australian of the Year 2022, said he started running youth camps through Borderline to assist teenagers to understand their mental health, and learn the necessary skills to help others in their community with mental health concerns.
Ms Magee said following Tay’s death, she’s unsure of what to do with herself, however has more recently found a passion in helping others in Tay’s situation, and now finds some solace sharing her family’s story.
“I realised this is a chance to help people who need it.
“There’s no other situation that leaves you feeling more helpless than this, now I just want to do anything I can to help because I couldn’t help Tay.”
A statement from the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service sent their condolences to the family, before detailing the process for mental health patients at the hospital.
“The death of any young person is an absolute tragedy and we extend our deepest condolences to any parent or family who has experienced the loss of a child,” the statement said.
“When a young person experiencing severe and/or complex mental health difficulties presents to our emergency departments (ED), they are initially seen by an emergency department specialist. Referral is then made to our Wide Bay Mental Health and Specialised Service which provides an on-call service after hours. At times initial mental health assessments can occur via our secure Telehealth network, particularly in regional and rural settings to ensure timely access while in an ED.
Upon referral, one of our mental health clinicians (medical, nursing or allied health) will meet with the young person and undertake a detailed assessment. These results will be discussed with an on-call consultant psychiatrist to determine the most appropriate care and management plan for the consumer.
“Management plans can range from discharge home with an appropriate guardian and a safety plan in place (including a crisis contact plan) along with plans for community follow-up, or referral and admission to a specialised Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit in South-East Queensland.
When discharged home, our Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) undertakes community-follow up, which may initially be via telephone where further risk screening can occur, and if indicated an outpatient appointment may be offered to determine the most appropriate follow-up in relation to the right care for the individual.
CYMHS may also determine the need for ongoing care within the service or may provide a more appropriate referral pathway for the young person.
As is standard procedure, specialists will organise follow-up consultations and issue reminders should they be required. It is at the discretion of the consumer to respond to scheduled appointments.
Care and treatment are always provided within a ‘less restrictive way’ framework based on safety and risk and in alignment with the Mental Health Act 2016. Sometimes there can be difficulties engaging with consumers, and they and their families may choose alternative pathways of care.
At all times we ensure appropriate communication with the consumer’s other care providers such as their general practitioner or school guidance officers.”
If this article raises any issues, support is available via Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
This article was printed in the Courier Mail in December 2021. Journalist: Elise Williams