The mother of a tragic 12-year-old schoolgirl says her daughter’s life was blighted by bullies before her death.
Charley Patterson was found dead on October 1 after months of suffering serious mental health problems, which her family believe were linked to the severe bullying they say she suffered at school.
Mum Jay Patterson, from Northumberland, is now determined no more children will suffer as her daughter did and wants to create a legacy for the Cramlington schoolgirl.
Jay described Charley as a bright, caring, funny girl, who loved animals and wanted nothing more than to become a zookeeper.
But despite her “remarkable” personality, her mum says she was severely bullied with with groups “ganging up on her”, reports Chronicle Live.
Jay is now calling for improvements to children’s mental health services, and friends are also raising money for the Tiny Lives’ Trust, at the RVI, where Charley’s life was saved as a premature baby.
Jay, 35, said: “Charley had the most infectious laugh, it was just contagious. When she smiled she had a proper, beaming smile, she was so gorgeous.
“She would always come out with the craziest things, she was so quick off the mark, anything you said she’d answer you back straight away. She could be sarcastic and she was really funny.
“She was also the type of girl who, if someone else was upset, she would do anything to help them. She was remarkably special.”
An investigation into the circumstances around her death, involving “multiple agencies” is now under way, her school, Cramlington Learning Village, has said.
Police have confirmed no criminal investigation is currently ongoing.
Looking to the future, Jay continued said: “We’re trying to focus on what we can do now, on building Charley’s legacy. She would like the idea that she’s helping other people.”
She said her daughter became the target of cruel taunts both online and in the classroom.
Though she blocked people on social media, her mum said she couldn’t even play Roblox, an online game she enjoyed, without receiving “nasty messages”.
When schools closed due to Covid-19, Charley had to work on a school laptop, where she continued to be abused, Jay said.
She added: “Charley was struggling during lockdown, so the school said she could go back to class on a Monday and a Friday – but that just meant she was stuck in a bubble with people bullying her. I think the school could have done a lot more. Nobody was interested in helping Charlie, or her friends who were also being bullied.”
Despite this, Charley was always eager to be kind to others.
Her mum said: “I had a message from another parent whose child had had to move class, saying that Charley was the first person to come over and introduce herself. That’s the kind of person Charley was, that’s what she did.”
The family have launched a campaign calling for ‘Charley’s Law’, which would make it a legal requirement for youngsters to get help sooner and have regular reviews to ensure they were getting better.
Charley first sought help from her GP in November, her mum says, but it wasn’t until a hospital visit in March that she was even put on a waiting list for an appointment with Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Then, although in 2018 the government began trialling a four-week waiting time for children’s mental health services in some areas, Charley’s mum says she was warned it could take as long as three years before she was seen.
Jay said: “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.
“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.
“The help Charley asked for wasn’t there and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
Since she began to speak out about Charley’s death, Jay says she’s been inundated with messages of support from parents and young people, who have shared their own heart-rending experiences of bullying, or of “begging” for mental health help for their children and facing a three-year waiting list.
She said she had chosen to focus her campaign on improving mental health support and help for youngsters suffering because of bullying, due to the number of anti-bullying campaigns which already exist.
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.”
Meanwhile, a fundraising page has been set up to give the “loving, kind and thoughtful” girl a fitting funeral. Any money left over from the fundraising will be donated to the Tiny Lives Trust.
The page was filled with tributes to “beautiful” Charley. One person wrote: “RIP Charley, a beautiful soul inside and out. Wishing peace and happiness to her family and friends, who I hope know that her legacy will live on to help many others in the future.”
A spokesperson for Cramlington Learning Village said: “We are heartbroken over the death of one of our year 8 students. Charley-Ann was a delightful, popular, hardworking student and she will be very much missed in school. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends and the school is working closely with the family to provide support at this difficult time.
“We are offering support for our students and staff in school, who are devastated at this tragic event.
“A dedicated mental health support team is based in school from the local authority. As a school we cover mental health and personal well-being in the curriculum in all year groups and have support available in school through a pastoral team that includes two trained counsellors. We encourage students to raise their problems with staff.
“Our focus at the moment is concentrating on supporting the family, as well as students and staff affected by her untimely death.
“The school is currently working with multiple agencies who are investigating the circumstances around Charley-Ann’s sad death.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of families and children, especially during these extraordinary times.
“Early intervention in mental health issues for children and young people is vital and services have continued to work around the clock during this unprecedented pandemic.
“We are transforming services through the NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £2.3 billion investment in mental health services per year by 2023/24, to help 345,000 more children and young people access mental health support if they need it.
“We are also piloting a four-week waiting time for specialist NHS services, so that there is swifter access for those children and young people who need it.”
You can donate to Charley’s fundraiser at https://uk.gofundme.com/f/help-give-charley-patterson-a-beautiful-send-off.
Jay and others are writing about the changes they want made on social media, under the hashtag #CharleyLaw