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Awful death shows why we have to support our vulnerable teenagers.

Byline: sundaypost Judy Murray OP

The story of the 17-year-old Dutch girl who was allowed to end her own life at home is truly tragic and disturbing.

Noa Pothoven had very fragile mental health and refused food and drink after she was sexually assaulted and raped as a young girl.

In agreeing to stop force feeding her, her family concluded her suffering was unbearable and there was no end to it in sight.

Noa's death highlights just how damaging childhood abuse and trauma can be, and the longer-term consequences which will of course affect your trust in society and adults.

It also shows the importance of having access to the right counselling and psychiatric treatment at the right time. We often come out with stock phrases like "time heals" when someone has experienced trauma, but the reality is you never forget.

I can't imagine how it must feel to know your child wants to end their life, and then to watch as they deliberately die.

I can only hope this girl's parents are being supported through what must be a shattering situation.

This dreadful news came in a week where we were reminded of the extent of self-harm among young girls, with a new study in the Lancet concluding the problem is so rife it risks becoming normalised and increasing the number who kill themselves.

I often talk of the dangers of social media which allows people to bully others anonymously, and saturates young minds with materialism, negativity and fakery.

In my work I see how easily a young person's confidence can be knocked, and when they read something they perceive as negative about themselves, whether intended or unintended, they really struggle with it.

Having mental health specialists in schools would be a very good start, but it will take time to build a workforce and we are some way off.

That's why I spoke at the Scottish Parliament last week of the need for more youth clubs to give young people a sense of belonging and worth, and to get them out from behind a screen.

I also called for the creation of a Scotland tennis team, at least at junior level, so that we can So create achievable stepping stones for young players. At the moment, tennis must be about the only sport in which you can't represent Scotland in anything but a friendly fixture.

Playing for Team GB may seem too distant a goal, where making a Scottish squad could feel more attainable and something to aim for.

A home team would make it easier to attract sponsors and supporters at a more local level and grow the game.

Above everything though, we need to invest in our future generations.

Funding for youth projects has been reduced in recent years, and we can see in the cries for help from our young people that we need more of it and we need it now.

So often these days I notice the number of adults who are on their phones while they are out with their children. But time spent looking at screens is time lost on our children's development. That's why I agree with the move by two nurseries in East Ayrshire to ban parents from using their mobiles during pick-up so that they instead talk to their little ones. It is sad that it has come to this, but we have to get the message across that we need to put time and effort into a child's communication skills if we are to give them a strong start in life. When we overlook the basics, like spending time with our kids, we waste valuable engagement - that troubles me.


Tragic Noa Pothoven was allowed to die after being force fed as she said her suffering was too hard to bear
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Publication:The Sunday Post (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Date:Jun 9, 2019
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