Neve and Georgia:
their memory condemned
as tracks are covered
I've just read the third and final part of 'The girls on the bridge' (17 May) on the suicides of Neve Lafferty and Georgia Rowe. As a former social worker who challenged the shortcomings of services for damaged young people, it is depressing how predictable and preventable these deaths probably were.
Depressing how so-called professionals cover their tracks and defend against unpalatable truths and how academic 'experts' come in to justify a callously unjust system. They're all probably smug with it. And the memory of these poor children is condemned – they'll be dismissed as beyond the pale, uncontrollable, just too damaged/mad/crazy.
Yet, I know that children exactly like Neve and Georgia can be supported if they're listened to and their needs taken seriously. It's depressing too how the press swallow the official line on these events. But it's very cheering how this Scottish Review series can present other thinking that is difficult but contains purposeful ways to understand and act. Well done.
I don't have the emotional reserve to comment on 'The girls on the bridge'. Excellently done. I found myself in tears and have yet to resolve with my therapist (inner consciousness) how much of that was for the girls who found death preferable to life, how much for others in the system and how much just self-pity. I have been to Bishopton many times and one of my great early professional friends, Sister Consolata – a nun – led it for several years, and led it well. Latterly, in my view, but I have no evidence to quote for this, it became managerialist and lacked empathy.
What I decided I could do was alert various people to this story – in government, across the sectors, and in academe. And I have done that. This is what I sent them:
The facts and details of this story break my heart really. The story is tragic but also, as I guess we knew when we acknowledged it, there remain massive systemic failures – in policy, in academe and across all sectors. We cannot prevent all suicides – but we can do a great deal better than this. Please read it. I am not involved in it at all – it came to me this morning. It will run all week. I hold my hand up. I worked hard over 40 years to create systemic change. I failed. Let's now do better.
Former chief inspector of social work, Scotland
Congratulations on Kenneth Roy's three excellent articles about the systemic failure in the case of the two young girls who committed suicide. Sadly, there are many more cases that have not attracted so much press attention. Perhaps you could follow up with an investigation into mental health services for young people in Scotland. What is there around apart from CAMHS? Why is CAMHS so woefully inadequate? Is it just poor resourcing or is it badly run? Why is the excellent work done by the third sector (eg youth counselling, art therapy, abuse and trauma recovery) dependent on short-term insecure funding and not mainlined? Is ASIST and Mental Health First Aid training having enough impact on people working and living with young people and if not, why not?
Everyday Mindfulness Scotland
I have been following 'The girls on the bridge' and know that this is the kind of thing that happens all the time. It's a wonder there are not many more tragic deaths. I know when my son died there were two investigations. Not one of the investigators spoke to me or any of the family and they came back with the same verdict: not preventable; no one to blame. The procurator fiscal said to me: 'If it's any consolation, lots of wrists have been slapped'. It wasn't any consolation at all
Given the recent evidence of the SNP's interest in Kenneth Roy's writings, I hope his three-part series on 'The girls on the bridge' will give Wee Eck and his cohorts cause for reflection on the appalling shortcomings in Scotland's provisioning for mental health services. You gain the impression that many of those involved really couldn't have 'cared' more negligently if they had tried. If any ministers come out with 'lessons have been learned' , they should be put in the jougs and pelted with rotten fruit.
Book a table in The Cafe. Email email@example.com