Little help for distressed girl, say parents

A DISTRESSED Collie parent says bullying has led his 12-year-old stepdaughter to cut her arms, first tentatively and now much more deeply.

He and his family are distressed by a lack of support and counselling at the girl’s school and at the local hospital.

When the mother tried to counsel her. The girl asked: “What’s the problem, Mum? Heaps of kids in town are doing it.”

The following night she cut herself even more deeply.

“At what point do we – as a community, as parents, as families as friends – allow our children to become victims of themselves?” asked the girl’s stepfather.

His 12-year-old stepdaughter was “self-destructing” in front of him and both he and his wife knew of other youngsters doing the same thing.

“A few days ago my partner and I were given the worst awakening a parent could imagine,” he said.

The school rang and said their daughter “was caught with a blade and was cutting herself”.

They had known about bullying “by those she considered her peers” but not that it had caused her to cut herself.

“Upon discovering that our child has been inflicting small incisions upon her limbs, my partner and I attempted to counsel her on the severity of what she had done,” he said.

“The following morning, after talking with our child and trying to decide a course of action for her well-being, we were horrified to discover, that while we were sleeping, she had found another sharp implement and slashed up again over night,” he said.

These were longer and deeper cuts than found the night before.

“How is it normal to think that if one does this it’s acceptable for others to do the same?”

He also asked how could children so severely threaten and verbally abuse another child.

A family they knew had uprooted and returned to Geraldton because bullying of their children was so relentless.

“How is it that schools ignore children less able to defend themselves or protect themselves? How is it acceptable to not understand how a child needs help?

“The school she attends has known of the constant bullying, taunts, and disgruntled verbal abuse, yet all they could do and say, was that ‘they can only do so much for just one student’.”

Derogatory words had been etched into a tree on the school grounds. When this was pointed out, the school’s administration said it was not something that they could control, he complained.

Attempts have been made to cover the graffiti but more has been craved into the tree.

“Our child has been sourcing aid from her teachers for months,” he said.

She had kept her troubles from her parents because of her brother’s disability (he has Asperger’s syndrome) and her baby sister, just a couple of months old.

The wife said she was worried sick that her son would copy his sister’s behaviour and cut himself even more deeply than she had.

The man said nine months ago he and his wife had asked the school for counselling of their daughter “but nothing happened”.

She had been a happy athletic child before moving to Collie and initially was happy at the school. But she got caught between cliques at her school and had also become “a Facebook bitch”.

Her parents confiscated her mobile phone and halted her access to the family computer to stop such destructive behaviour. Her response was to spend more time at a friend’s house where she was more exposed to Facebook abuse, and indulged in it herself.

When she slashed herself they immediately sought professional help.

“The doctor agreed the child needed to be admitted for her own safety,” the man said.

In the following nightmarish 48 hours the couple had no sleep, no time for their infant, or time to help another troubled child, he said.

The only available help at the hospital was a social worker “who spoke to our child, without her mother there initially, to confirm or deny what our child believes is the issue”, he said.

“Upon finishing his conversation with our child, he pushed the issue upon my partner.”

The social worker believed the child’s issues were “not as dramatic as we see them to be”, the man said.

“He took our child’s word that what she had done wasn’t because of suicidal tendencies.”

He told the girl’s mother: “You are too close to the issue at hand and you are not being reasonable to her needs for more attention.”

The social worker also said “she does not want to admit there’s a problem so send her home”, the man claimed.

The doctor told the hospital the girl should be kept in a room on her own. She should not be allowed out unless signed out by a parent or guardian.

On Monday the stepfather visited her in hospital, to tell her his parents were coming to Collie to see her.

“She had been moved out of the solitary room and in with another girl.”

Her distressed mother said she had been sickened, cleaning her daughter’s room while the girl was in hospital. She had found knives and other blades, tablets and hygiene “horrors” that indicated just how disturbed their daughter was.

“Now my partner and I are fearful of our child’s future,” he said

She hated her body and wanted to “continually inflict self-harm upon herself”.

“My partner and I have lost faith in our children’s education and schools’ duty of care of their students, not only to those children that are less fortunate, but also those children that have become serial bullies.”

They were also losing faith in local medical services.

He believed there was an epidemic of unhappiness. “It seems to be acceptable for our children to cyber their way through an unrealistic world and ignore the true beauty that we still possess in our one real world,” he said.

“As a community I believe we need to do more, and have more opportunities for our children.”

He believed more counselling services had to be provided to the bullies as well as their victims.

Police liaison was also needed to deal with the bullies.

Their daughter was being taken to Bunbury for assessment this week. They were expecting word today or tomorrow on whether she would get continuing help.

“WA Country Health Service – South West has a rigorous process for handling complaints received by the health service,” the service’s regional director Grace Ley said on Tuesday.

“We are unable to discuss individual cases in the media.

“If the families involved have concerns, or complaints about the care provided then they should write to the health service as all complaints are investigated thoroughly.”

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT PROMISED SUPPORT

THE troubled Collie schoolgirl who has been cutting herself may finally get help from a school psychologist.

The Education Department’s south-west regional executive director Neil Milligan said yesterday: “The school will continue to do everything it can to support the child and family including the involvement of the school chaplain and psychologist.”

When the Collie Mail asked if this meant more support than before, the reply was “not sure we can add anything further to our response”.

However things look a little more positive,

Mr Milligan said: “Western Australian schools have strict policies in place to tackle bullying and regularly run cyber bullying and protective behaviours programs.

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