The mum of a teen who took her personal life aged simply 14 is aware of simply how devastating the results of stripling bullying might be.
Nicola Harteveld had no thought her daughter Megan was hiding a horrible secret till she was discovered lifeless in her dwelling in Pembrokeshire in February 2017. However six years on, Nicola is working with kids and their dad and mom via the Megan’s Starr Basis and he or she sees the results of on-line bullying each week.
“Now I believe to myself every thing is so blindingly apparent,” she stated. “It makes a lot sense to me however six years in the past it didn’t. I really feel I can see it in individuals earlier than I converse to them. Perhaps I’ve honed in on it.”
There’s a mild and caring presence round Nicola and it is simple to see why individuals really feel in a position to share their issues together with her. She’s witnessed issues which have “blown my thoughts” as youngsters wrestle with social anxiousness, bullying at college and dwelling in an internet world. There’s even an actual factor known as “FIFA rage”, she stated incredulously.
We spoke to Nicola in 2022 simply earlier than the fifth anniversary of Meg’s demise. Since then, the mum-of-seven has accomplished a level in psychology and arrange the Megan’s Starr Basis espresso home within the coronary heart of Milford Haven, her dwelling city. And as their recognition grows the café is branching into desserts as a result of that is what the kids need.
“The Megan’s Starr Basis was arrange after my 14-year-old daughter Megan took her personal life after being cyberbullied, and subsequently struggling together with her psychological well being,” Nicola stated. “Like many younger individuals, she clearly didn’t really feel like she may attain out and search assist, by chatting with a instructor, a police officer and even us her dad and mom. She didn’t need to be a burden to anybody, least of all us or her buddies. She gut-wrenchingly suffered in silence. She was just a bit woman. After Megan’s demise, my world actually fell aside.”
If you’re affected by any of the problems raised on this story there may be assist accessible
Thoughts infoline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm. To contact them name 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans gives a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (within the UK and Republic of Eire this quantity is FREE to name and won’t seem in your telephone invoice).
C.A.L.L. (Group Recommendation & Listening Line) gives emotional help and data/literature on psychological well being and associated issues to the individuals of Wales and might be contacted on 0800 132 737 or via the web site.
The NHS gives assist and recommendation via its 111 service.
Nicola’s research have been motivated partially by a necessity to grasp as to why Meg did what she did. However there may be additionally a robust feeling that Nicola could make a distinction and preserve Meg’s reminiscence alive: “I knew I might be there for them,” she stated. “It makes you suppose critically, to suppose exterior the field and take a look at issues from a distinct perspective.”
It additionally makes her query herself: “I believe to myself why did I not see that.”
“Megan was a preferred, vivacious, clever, lovely and humorous younger woman, together with her complete life in entrance of her,” she continued. “She was inventive, proficient and had a aptitude for artwork and poetry and writing. However she’s lifeless. Suicide and psychological well being has no face and doesn’t discriminate. I needed dad and mom to know that.
“Megan hid her ache behind an enormous smile and others can too. I felt it was crucial to attempt to break the taboo. To point out that we have to converse up about our psychological well being in an effort to attempt to overcome these stigmas. Megan was a standard, blissful and wholesome woman to everybody else, however seems to be might be deceiving.”
Her diploma has taught her to see issues from a mother or father’s perspective, knowledgeable one and to a point, a youngster’s viewpoint too. The espresso home is actually a “disguise for a drop in centre”, stated Nicola.
Formally opened in September 2022, the intense and ethereal house has been designed by the children themselves and caters to what they needed to have. So in addition to the espresso machine, there’s an entire vary of milkshakes and new for this spring, a Mr Whippy ice cream machine. They’re hoping to supply desserts and waffles too by Easter. “It is what the younger individuals needed,” Nicola stated. “They stated it was their age group would doubtless be those shopping for desserts and it was a means for them to present again and assist help the place that helps them.”
Twice every week they open within the evenings for his or her “heat nights” the place individuals can pop in for a free sizzling meal.
“There’s a cause for individuals to come back in,” stated Nicola. “We needed it to be vivid and vibrant.” There are optimistic affirmations all around the painted partitions to “give the texture good issue” whereas the characteristic wall on the again is roofed by vivid flowers.
Whereas the milkshakes and occasional would possibly act as “ice breakers” the larger message is that it’s a secure house for teenagers and their dad and mom to ask for assist. Round half of those that are available in want to entry help, stated Nicola.
“They only want somebody to speak to and someplace to go,” she added. “And of those that need assistance, I’d say 20% simply want a secure house the place there’s no judgement.”
Their common prospects vary from age 4 to 94 and everyone seems to be given an equally heat welcome. However it’s the children slipping via the web who Nicola desires to assist. She’s come throughout one teenage woman who was so anxious about speaking to her face-to-face that the dialog was performed by typing messages on her telephone. Whereas one other woman was distraught and grieving the lack of her greatest pal who turned out to be a social media star on YouTube.
“Peer stress is an enormous drawback,” she stated. “There’s a lot stress to slot in. Social media and the likes of TikTok and Instagram have given these youngsters a false thought of what they need to appear like and the way they need to be performing. Influencers have a big impact too. And it begins from such a younger age.”
She didn’t have an inkling about any of it till after Meg died. “It’s been an actual eye opener,” she stated. “I grew up within the 80s and 90s. That’s a world away from the place we are actually. Mother and father don’t know the way to deal with it and strategy it. We’ve to assist them so they can assist their baby.”
On-line bullying is a typical theme: “Younger persons are being bullied on-line however we discover that youngsters can’t block them [the bullies] as a result of they should see what’s being stated about them,” defined Nicola. “We are able to inform them that they’re encouraging the bullying by responding to it and rising to it. However youngsters simply can’t do it.”
The muse receives referrals from docs, faculties, youth staff, dad and mom and even the kids themselves. And so they supply free BCAP skilled counselling periods for many who want it.
The muse gives peer help to struggling dad and mom too and even grandparents who are available in searching for recommendation as they discover themselves shouldering the burden of childcare. There’s a important variety of grandparents who’re liable for mentioning youngsters, Nicola stated. And growing numbers of youngsters are being withdrawn from college as a result of bullying and/or social anxiousness.
“So many dad and mom who are actually pulling their youngsters from college,” stated Nicola, who says there are events when that’s the neatest thing for the kid. “A variety of dad and mom don’t need that aggro with their youngsters and the breakdown of the connection with their child isn’t price making them go to high school. However that child is lacking out on social aspect of issues and social media turns into their social life.
“And also you want a again up plan the place they are going to preserve assembly individuals and sustaining relationships.” The espresso home gives the kids a spot to work quietly and likewise work as volunteers on the café which doubles as “palms on studying help”.
Nicola is a choose for the 2023 Diana Award, a charity arrange in reminiscence of the Princess of Wales and which recognises these kids creating optimistic social change. She is proud that she is a part of that motion. Writing on the Megan’s Starr Basis web site, she says: “Our household has been desecrated ceaselessly. Nonetheless, I put my grief and anger apart and determined that I may both let her demise destroy me, or outline me. I selected the latter. I vowed that I’d not let every other younger individual really feel like they’d no selection apart from to finish their life. That I’d be certain that there was all the time somebody to talk to, with out judgement or worry of being labelled attention-seeking or a burden.”
Her message is filtering via to these in Pembrokeshire: “It’s actually sensible we’re busy and persons are coming via however at that very same time it’s unhappy there’s a necessity for it,” she stated together with her customary smile. “However it’s nice they’re coming ahead.
“I’m pleased with the truth that we’ve been in a position to make an unbelievable legacy for Meg and when individuals say her identify they consider kindness and being variety. And in addition how far my very own youngsters have come.
“And what we’ve been in a position to present to the community- someplace secure to come back; someplace to be themselves.”
For confidential help the Samaritans might be contacted without cost across the clock twelve months a yr on 116 123.
Learn extra in regards to the Megan’s Starr Basis on their web site.