Mother tells of grief after death of bullied teenage daughter who took a fatal overdose

Severine Hobbs.

Severine Hobbs. - Credit: Archant

A mother has spoken of her grief after her “lovely” teenage daughter took a fatal dose of anti-depressants after being bullied at school.

Severine Hobbs was just 14 when she died. She had been bullied since primary school, had started self-harming and was depressed.

Her mum Michelle Bancroft, 37, of Crabapple Close, Sawtry, believes not enough was done to help her daughter’s mental health, and has called for her daughter’s school – Sawtry Community College – to look at its stance of bullying and bullies.

An inquest at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon, on Thursday, into Severine’s death heard how the teenager was found collapsed on the bathroom floor of the family home on May 15 and died later that day at Peterborough City Hospital.

Miss Bancroft told The Hunts Post: “She was lovely, bubbly and would help anybody. She was an avid fan of One Direction – she called herself a ‘directioner’.

“It’s left a big hole in our lives. It’s hard because you just walk round the house and you expect to see her round the corner or coming out of her bedroom.”

The bullying was “mainly name ­calling” but Severine believed what her tormentors were saying, her mum said.

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“The school needs to tackle the bullies and it is not just saying ‘Right, you are expelled’ – they need to get to the root cause of why they are doing it,” Miss Bancroft said.

“It could be the fact that the bullies are feeling bad about themselves and are just trying to make themselves feel better. They need to realise that words hurt.

“Severine said she would rather have been kicked and punched.” Miss Bancroft also believes Severine did not get enough help with her depression.

In a statement, read at the inquest, she was critical of the Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

“They are the ones qualified to see this,” she said. “Why didn’t they act quicker?”

The court was told Severine had enjoyed school at Upwood but when the family moved to Yaxley there were issues with bullying and name calling at her new school.

This continued until she was 11 and when she went to Sawtry Community College.

Miss Bancroft described how she noticed a Facebook message about self-harming and Severine admitted she had done this. The teenager made a pact to stop, but her troubles continued. She called Childline who were so concerned for her welfare they contacted police.

As a result, Miss Bancroft took her daughter to see a doctor. She was referred to Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in March 2013 and was seen that May, but it was decided that no action was necessary.

Further mood swings resulted in another appointment in August last year, but they were put down to “normal ­teenage hormones”, Miss Bancroft said.

Meanwhile, the school was informed of the problems, the bullies were identified and told if they continued they would be expelled.

Severine was also given a sixth-form mentor, and had regular access to a school nurse and counsellor.

The family moved to Sawtry and Miss Bancroft said her daughter seemed fine and there had been no further mention of bullying.

But in January this year, the school called home, concerned that Severine had been talking about self-harming and suicide.

Once again, she was referred to Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and was assessed in February as having slight depression and anxiety.

Cognitive behavioural therapy was prescribed, although she was deemed to be a “moderate risk” to herself and no start date was set.

With no noticeable changes in her mood, she had no further contact with Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services before she died.

A statement from one of her friends said Severine had been bullied by ­numerous people but was good at covering up the upset it had caused.

The day before she died, she was her usual, quite happy, bubbly self, she said.

Caroline Bates, a mental health ­practitioner for Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services who had seen Severine, said the use of ­medication had not been thought ­appropriate but might have been ­considered at a later date.

“She had hoped that things could be different,” she said. “She had lots of support around, at home and school.”

An investigation carried out into the care provided by Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services found no fault in how it had been handled.

In concluding that Severine died “in circumstances of misadventure”, South and West Cambridgeshire coroner David Morris said she had taken the overdose but had not fully appreciated the ­consequences of the action.

Miss Bancroft said that the family – which also includes her partner Andrew Hobbs, 38, and Severine’s siblings Galataya, 12 and Kaigh, eight – were ­supporting a charity set up by former teacher Steven Hill, called New Direction The Severine Hobbs Charity.

She said: “I would like to see us going into schools and telling people what’s happened and, hopefully, helping people that are being bullied and the bullies themselves.”