Parents’ plea for better understanding of depression after son’s suicide

The Humber Bridge
The Humber Bridge
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The grieving parents of a teenage boy who jumped to his death from the Humber Bridge have made a plea for a better understanding of depression.

High-achieving William Shaw 14, ran to the bridge from his home in east Hull last September 17 after a family argument and called his father, telling him: “Hi Dad, I won’t be back at 8.30pm. I’m at the Humber Bridge and I’m going to kill myself.”

An inquest heard he was caught on CCTV as he walked to the spot where he jumped talking on his phone to a female friend. In a statement the friend, who can’t be named for legal reasons, said he seemed “absolutely fine.”

“I could tell he was outside because I could hear the wind and traffic. I said I was worried about him walking round in the dark. He said he would bring dark chocolate. I was talking away about dark chocolate and I became aware he wasn’t replying.

“I looked at the phone - the call had ended.”

Unbeknown to his parents until a week before his death last September 17, he had confided in his closest male friend the month before about having suicidal thoughts and jumping off the bridge.

He texted the friend to say suicide rates had tripled among 14-year-olds in a year, adding: “No joke.”

William went on: “If I was going to do anything stupid I wouldn’t tell anyone - not even you - because it’s easier.”

His mother Angela Heard-Shaw took him to his GP on September 15 after they finally found out about the conversation and he admitted feeling low for three months and to having frequent suicidal thoughts.

He was urgently referred to mental health services - but they only received the request in the post the day after he died.

Mrs Heard-Shaw said in a statement they had struggled to make sense of the tragedy, and the only thing she could think of was “once he had considered an idea his perfectionist nature meant he had to see it through.”

After the inquest she and her husband Andrew Shaw said they had never suspected their son, “a very successful athlete, swimmer and musician (who) had a very positive school and social life” suffered from depression and it was “inconceivable” he would plan to kill himself.

They added: “It is heart breaking to know that he was suffering and never reached out for our help.

“The only reason we can think of is the stigma associated with mental illness and that teenagers find it difficult to put into words how they are feeling inside. It is our belief that parents and pupils should be informed about the warning signs of depression and potential suicide risk.

“It is also of the upmost importance to tell an adult if a child talks to their friends about taking their own life.”

A control room operator picked up William on CCTV and he was seen climbing over the railings onto the pathway heading east, but then lost sight of him.

A carer, out with a 14-year-old, heard what sounded like a “heavy car door closing” as they crossed the bridge.

William’s body was found in a field off Cliff Road but despite the efforts of police and paramedics he couldn’t be revived. Tests revealed no sign of alcohol or drugs.

Coroner Rosemary Baxter said she was satisfied that William had intended to commit suicide.