LESS than a mile away it is a beautiful, sunny morning, but a gray veil of mist hangs over the north-east coast, making the sea invisible from the promenade.
19-year-old Mia Stuart grew up in Seaton Carew, a typical English seaside resort a few miles south of Hartlepool.
And today Mia sits courageously, thoughtfully and sometimes tearfully in a café and talks about the “dark places” that led her to come frighteningly close to the end of her own life.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week, and Mia decided to share her powerful story — as raw and painful as it still is — because she wants to help others who may be struggling with their mental health.
“I want to reach out to people and tell them that things will get better,” she says. “There are times when it’s so dark you feel like there’s no way out, but I’m still here – and that shows there is hope.”
Mia is eloquent, intelligent and comes from a loving family. Her mother Joanne is a deputy headteacher at a primary school, father Michael works for a local council and she has 13-year-old twin sisters Eve and Lily.
Home was always fun, safe and supportive – but depression can affect anyone. And having come back from the brink, Mia wants to use her “second chance” to inspire more openness, eliminate the stigma around mental health and advocate for better support for those suffering.
Her first memory of feeling anxious was when she started gymnastics as a little girl. She loved the sport and had the talent to win regional competitions, but it was never enough to meet her own high expectations.
“I just wanted to do my best, but no matter how well I did, I never felt good enough,” she remembers. “Later, these same feelings began to affect me in school and in all other aspects of my life.”
When a back problem forced her to stop gymnastics, she lost an important circle of friends and in 2018 she suffered the pressure of preparing for her GCSEs with the same unshakable feeling of not being good enough.
“The anxiety developed into depression and darker thoughts, and I spent a lot of time in my room, refusing to go out with friends and repressing everything,” she explains.
At the beginning of 2019, she sought help from an English teacher and was referred to the child and adolescent psychiatric service in an emergency. Cognitive behavioral therapy was ordered, but it didn’t work. On Sept. 10 — coincidentally, National Suicide Prevention Day — she overdosed at home.
She had alerted the mental health crisis team and police and an ambulance were sent to the house. Luckily it wasn’t serious enough to require hospital treatment, but it was a worrying warning of what was to come.
The immediate response was to send Mia to intensive care at home, with a new therapist coming in regularly to take her for a walk or have coffee. This time there was a significant improvement, but then the Covid pandemic hit in March 2020 and home visits were stopped.
“I certainly could have made a lot of progress, but I wasn’t at the point where I could help myself and home visits were replaced with just one phone call every two weeks,” she says.
Her mental health deteriorated and in November 2021 she took another overdose before police were called to talk her out of a bridge.
“I just felt like there was nothing left for me and that I wasn’t going anywhere with my life,” she adds.
Mia was taken to James Cook University Hospital for treatment and given access to the crisis team but was discharged home.
After lockdown rules were relaxed, she was able to return to intensive home treatment, where two therapists had regular contact for a year. Since she had someone she liked to talk to, her condition remained stable – until she was close to her 18th birthday in August 2022 and had to switch from child care to adult care.
“I lost relationships with the two people who had helped me and it was really difficult for me,” she admits.
She had planned to stay at sixth form college for another year, but the clearance unexpectedly gave her a place to study clinical psychology at Sunderland University. It turned out to be a wrong move. She dropped out earlier this year because she had difficulty learning independently and making friends.
In late January, she took another overdose that left her in a coma in the intensive care unit for a week. Her mother and father were told that her life support system would be turned off if there was no improvement within 48 hours.
Luckily there was an improvement, although Mia describes everything as a blur. “The doctors said it was a miracle that I survived,” she says, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“When I came to, I was confused. My mother and father were at my bedside – they were there every second. I know how hard it was for them, but they were my biggest support.
“I just wish I had spoken more about how I was feeling. That’s my biggest message from all of this: talk to someone and focus on things to look forward to.”
After the coma, Mia had to learn to walk again and was unable to speak for a long time. Instead, she wrote poems about her feelings. She loved creative writing as a child. As her problems came to a head in 2018, she began compiling a collection of her poems. While she recovered in the intensive care unit, others arrived.
She has now compiled them into a book called Hiraeth, a Welsh word meaning “a deep longing for something, especially a home”. The following excerpt is a message to anyone who may be suffering from depression:
unlike most people
Who tells you?
that there is a light
at the end of the tunnel.
What they don’t see
is the earthquake in your chest
and the tsunami in your lungs
But I do.
I see it,
I see how hard you’re trying,
although this world
is sometimes so cruel
and I am proud of you.
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Mia is looking for a publisher for the book in the hope that her words will be an inspiration to others. She is also considering a career in mental health care.
But for now she needs to focus on rebuilding her life and she is still receiving treatment.
“I’m taking it day by day, but I’m definitely feeling better – and I know I have something to live for,” she smiles.
As Mia Stuart walks home along the promenade, the sun begins to break through.
- Samaritans are available day and night, 365 days a year. You can call them free on 116 123, email email@example.com or visit www.samaritans.org to find a branch near you.
- If U Care Share this on 0191 387 5661 or text IUCS to 85258.
- SANE on 07984 967 708, Calm on 0800 58 58 58.
- Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust crisis line on 0800 0516 171.
https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/opinion/23781445.mia-almost-died-suicide—now-wants-help-others/?ref=rss Mia almost died by suicide – now she wants to help others