A 12-year-old girl in Cramlington, Northumberland has died by suicide in response to constant online bullying she was subjected to during the lockdown. Charley Patterson was found dead on October 1, but this was not her first instance of self-harm, as she’d been admitted to the hospital for self-harm in November 2019, and again in March 2020. Charley’s family has since launched a campaign for what they call ‘Charley’s Law’, which would make it a legal requirement for young people to get mental health services more quickly. Charley’s mother, Jay Patterson, 35, had confiscated her phone to shield her from abusive messages, cutting Charley off from internet access. After the lockdown was initiated for the coronavirus, however, Charley was required to spend hours on her laptop for remote learning, during which time her abuse started up again.
Jay had initially tried blocking everyone who was abusive towards Charley on Facebook and WhatsApp, but the number grew to be too many, and she confiscated Charley’s phone instead. “But I couldn’t take her Chromebook, which is a mini laptop she has to have for school. During lockdown it was especially hard,” said Jay, to MailOnline. Charley also received what Jay described as “nasty messages” from the online multiplayer game, Roblox. According to Jay, Charley was bullied for not being “your typical girly girl.”
She also said, “She didn’t fit into any friendship group, though she did have some friends in other classes. She was called a lesbo emo freak.She first tried to take her own life in November last year. When people at school found out they said things to her like, ‘You are so useless you can’t even kill yourself properly’. They also said, ‘The only way your family will be happy is if you are dead’.
Charley was first taken to the hospital in November, 2019, after which Charley sought help from her General Practitioner. However, it wasn’t until March, 2020, when she was in the hospital after a second suicide attempt that Charley was put on a waiting list for an appointment with Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMS) – a list that Jay was told could keep Charley waiting for around three years, when Charley would be 15. The family is now campaigning for “Charley’s Law”, requiring speedy mental health assistance for youth who are in need of it. Speaking to ChronicalLive, she outlines specifically what she and her family are seeking to have officially passed. “We’ve got four points we want to get across. First, that an initial assessment should happen within one month of the first time a child asks for help,” Jay said.
“Second, that within a month of that, a meeting takes place with all the professionals involved, doctors, teachers, social services, that they all have to attend. Then, there should be regular follow ups with the child to make sure they are okay; and a meeting should be held regularly by all professionals to make sure they’re doing everything they need to.”
She added: “There is an anti-bullying week in schools every year, but it doesn’t mean that bullying stops. What we need is for there to be the right support services for children if it happens. She’s got a brother and a sister who went through bullying in school, and when they asked for help, it wasn’t there. She watched them go through that and when she asked for help it also wasn’t there.”