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Support I receive just isn't helping, says self-harming girl damaged by dad's death

By Claire McNeilly

Natasha Murphy began experiencing serious mental health issues following her father John's death.

He was in his late 40s when he passed away in 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and that's when the 16-year-old started having panic attacks and began self-harming.

Prior to that, the Malone College pupil said she had anger management and abandonment issues which began when her parents' marriage broke down in 2009 and her dad left the family home.

Natasha welcomed the launch of a review of mental health services here, adding that it was high time something changed.

"My problems really started a few years ago after my daddy died," she said.

"He was overweight and disabled and he didn't look after himself at all, and after I lost him I found myself faced with a lot of things in my head that were difficult to work through.

"He damaged my relationship with my mum because he used to tell me she didn't love me, and he also ruined my relationship with my big brother. He's 21 now and lives in Cork, and we still don't speak.

"I'm not a violent person but sometimes I feel really angry and I'm not me. Then I get angry at myself for feeling angry and I hurt myself - not by cutting myself, but by biting my fingers.

"For seven months, during the worst of it last year, I was having daily panic attacks.

"I was also biting my fingers and I wouldn't stop, even if they were bleeding.

"One day I got upset at school and a teacher found me while I was having an attack in the bathroom, just after break-time had finished. She noticed I'd been biting myself and phoned my mum."

The teen, a diabetic, said her mum, Siobhan (39), a home-maker and mother-of-three, immediately made an appointment with a doctor who saw her in April 2016 and referred her to a specialist.

It was, however, six months until she was assessed and it then took a further six months - and countless follow-up calls from her mum - before she was seen again in April this year.

But the main issue for the Glenavy teenager, who wasn't diagnosed with autism until 2012, is that she doesn't feel that sessions with a psychiatrist are helping in her particular case.

"I feel worse after seeing him, when I really want to feel better," she said.

"He focuses in on one thing - my panic attacks - and doesn't talk about the issues I want to discuss," she claimed.

"The idea of a support system is there - but I don't think it's the right type of support for me." Natasha, who lives with her mum, stepdad Martin (39), stepbrother Ryan (15) and stepsister Chloe (8), admitted that she had contemplated ending it all, but stopped herself after a friend attempted suicide.

"For a while I didn't want to go on," she admitted.

"But then one day my best friend ended up in hospital after trying to kill herself, and that really hurt me.

"It also made me realise that I didn't want to do anything that would make people who care about me feel that much pain."

The Co Antrim schoolgirl, who has seen a specialist twice since April, said she knows several girls and boys her age who suffer from mental health issues, but she said they all feel as if they have nowhere to turn.

"A lot of my friends feel the way I do and they want help, but that help just isn't there," she said.

"I know I have mental health problems and I need help.

"If I can help other people my age and younger by admitting that I have problems then I would gladly stand up in front of the whole world and say it."

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