‘You’ve done nothing’: Family furious over suicide inaction

 

 

The sister of a 14-year-old boy who suicided after relentless bullying says young lives could have been saved if the government had implemented recommendations from her brother's inquest a decade ago.

Five out of the eight recommendations by the state coroner were not implemented after Alex Wildman took his own life in July 2008.

Alex was the subject of "torturous" cyber-bullying, threats and beatings from students at Kadina High School in NSW's north.

Alex and his mother Justine Kelly.
Alex and his mother Justine Kelly.

He was not the typical target for bullies. Alex was happy, sporty, had a group of friends and was dating one of the 'popular' girls. In fact, all the girls loved him.

The inquest into his death in 2010 heard jealousy was the main reason he was targeted at his new school Kadina, and at his old school Ingleburn.

The bullying was a "major trigger" for Alex's suicide, the inquest was told.

Several recommendations were made to the education department and police minister by Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson to avoid the same thing happening again - but more than half of these recommendations have not been implemented.

Alex took his own life aged 14.
Alex took his own life aged 14.

 

 

 

Alex with his younger sibling.
Alex with his younger sibling.

Alex's older sister Josie, 28, said families who have lost a young person to suicide have been let down by the government's "inaction".

"Due to the lack of change since the recommendations into my brother's death, definitely more lives have been lost," Josie said.

One of the recommendations was to have a full time counsellor for every 500 students in NSW high schools. This has not been executed.

This is one of the changes the Sunday Telegraph's Can We Talk campaign on youth suicide is asking the government to immediately act on.

"My question is, why hasn't it been implemented? At the end of the day, children's safety and adolescents' safety should be a number one priority. As should their mental wellbeing. They deserve to be safe at school. This isn't being achieved," Josie said.

 

 

Mr MacPherson also recommended the department ensure high schools have a dedicated email address or a mobile phone number to report bullying.

But this was not executed either.

Josie's brother was bashed three times in the week leading up to his death.

Despite this, not one teacher at Kadina knew about the bullying until a day before his death, the inquest heard.

And the Kadina school counsellor told the inquest she "did not know Alex and (had) never met him".

Alex's family came to a financial settlement with the Department after alleging it had breached its duty of care and Kadina High School "owed Alex a duty to recognise that he was in need of assistance", according to court documents.

 

Alex loved playing soccer.
Alex loved playing soccer.

The NSW Police Commissioner in 2010, Andrew Scipione, did not support a recommendation from the coroner to appoint additional officers to work with schools due to "the many demands on its resources".

And he said it would "not be appropriate" for officers to receive specialised training to support families impacted by suicide as they already received training on the subject.

Josie said her family would finally receive some closure if the government took action on bullying.

"Some closure would come if they made sure more support was in place, whether that be school counsellors and more funding, or more education for teachers," she said.

"But in terms of how my brother died, I will never have full closure on that. My brother would not have ended his own life had he not been subjected to such torturous forms of bullying."

 

Alex Wildman one year before he died, with his sister Josie.
Alex Wildman one year before he died, with his sister Josie.

 

Josie said the impact of the loss of her brother, who would be turning 27 this year, was something she "couldn't put into words".

"My whole life in an instant had gone from normal and happy to hell," she said.

Police Minister David Elliott said the police force was prioritising mental health initiatives.

"My heart goes out to Alex's family for the loss they continue to feel after his tragic death. We've come a long way since the Coroner's Court handed down their findings in Alex's case," Mr Elliot said.

In June, the government announced a $6.1 million investment to provide clinical support to frontline officers who are called to mental health emergencies.

 

Alex with his mum Justine and younger sibling. Picture: Supplied
Alex with his mum Justine and younger sibling. Picture: Supplied

 

An Education Department spokeswoman said every public high school would have a full-time counsellor and support officer by June 2023.

"Since March 2015, the NSW Government has committed $110.49 million to expand the school counselling service," the spokeswoman said.

The Department did implement a recommendation by the state coroner for schools to pass on a history of bullying or self-harm if a student was transferring schools.

A memorandum was sent out by the Department in 2011 outlining rules to follow when a student enrols in a new school, including delivering an induction to school counsellors.

And in 2018, it was made a criminal offence for a school to fail to report child abuse and physical assaults to police.

 

Don't go it alone. Please reach out for help.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Beyond Blue's coronavirus support service: 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

 

 

 

Originally published as 'You've done nothing': Family furious over teen suicide inaction



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