As mental health campaign launched, poignant video shows sufferer urging others to speak out a few months before she died
PUBLISHED: 13:06 23 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:24 26 October 2015
At 26 years old, Jacqueline Boulton had so much to live for.
Talented, caring, funny, intelligent - and so very loved by her family and friends.
But her infectious smile masked the chronic depression which she suffered for so many years and which ultimately ended her life.
Today, her family told the story of their daughter’s battle with mental illness with the hope of helping others enduring a similar ordeal.
It comes as we launch our new Mental Heath Watch campaign, in honour of Jacqui and the many more who suffer just like her. It aims to help end the stigma around the problem, raise awareness and fight for better treatment in the region.
Backing the campaign, Jacqui’s parents David and Pimporn Boulton also agreed for parts of a heartbreaking 20-minute video, in which she talks about the illness and its impact, to be published.
Speaking from the family home in Lowestoft, Mr Boulton, said: “If just one youngster and family is saved, us speaking out and telling our story will be worth the pain of the telling.
“Our message for people suffering like Jacqui, is to talk about their feelings, let people know exactly how they are and for parents to listen hard to any youngster before coming to conclusions and giving opinions and to be very careful how opinions are relayed.
“They also need to be aware that the pressures of modern society, not there when we were youngsters, are resulting in a lot of issues for the younger generation.”
An increasing number of people suffer from mental health issues and it can affect one in four people in their lifetime.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, the number of cases referred to the region’s health trust has soared, with children increasingly affected.
In spite of this, funding from the government is lacking compared to other areas of the health sector.
Over the next few weeks we will put the spotlight on each key issue as part of our mental health manifesto.
Jacqui, herself training to be a mental health counsellor, suffered with depression and eating disorders, as well as anxiety and a mild form of self-harm.
Her father, 59, said: “Initially we put Jacqui’s focus on self image, the thoughts that nothing in her life was right, her aversion to parental authority down to being a typical teenager - but I just wish we’d realised that it was so much more.
“I would try and reason with her and tell her how much she had and how much was out there to enjoy and how little others in the world had. But I realise now that didn’t help at all, in fact the opposite, it made her feel guilty for the way she felt and more confused. If my wife and I had been more aware we would have handled things completely differently. To my eternal regret, I didn’t really hear her at the time.
“When the eating disorder was at its worst, she wouldn’t eat one minute and would binge the next. In recent years she seemed to have gained control of the eating issues and didn’t self-harm, but we know now that food, her appearance and weight always dominated her thoughts. However, it was ultimately the depression that took her.”
In her early twenties she moved to London for a short period, but soon returned to Lowestoft to live with her parents, where she enjoyed many moments of happiness.
Jacqui, who enjoyed photography, modelling and ran her own fashion and beauty YouTube blog, received some psychiatric support but made three unsuccessful attempts on her life. Two were perceived as cries for help, the third, just a week before her death on September 11, was not.
Her father said: “The problem with depression is the sufferer cannot process the positives over the negative. When the illness took hold, Jacqui saw only darkness; it was very difficult to shed any light.”
Although they have no criticism of the treatment Jacqui received, the family feels mental health care needs increased funding to involve parents more and that, at critical times and in certain circumstances, confidentiality may need to be breached.
They said the benefits would be two-fold: the therapist could advise on how to best deal with situations and what best to say and not say, while the therapists could also gain a better understanding and perception of the parents themselves.
Mr Boulton explained: “If we’d have known how seriously ill and at risk she was, we would never have left her alone, which we did for 10 days. We would have made sure one of us was there for her.”
Mr Boulton said he wanted others suffering similarly to Jacqui to “open up” about exactly how they felt - and his advice to parents concerned about their loved ones was to “listen as much as possible, really listen”.
He added: “We now know that Jacqui felt like she was a burden to us, which was just the opposite of reality. She has left such a large hole in our family which we know will never be filled.”
To donate to the memorial page set up to raise funds for The Samaritans and Rethink Mental Illness visit jacquelinekay.boulton.muchloved.com
Call The Samaritans on 116 123.
Tomorrow: Our manifesto to improve mental health awareness and provision.
In June, a few months prior to her death, Jacqui posted a 20-minute video discussing her battle against depression. Published with the kind permission of the family here is some of what she said.
“I started suffering from mental health problems at the age of 13. I lost a lot of weight and that was unintentional, but I started to get a really positive reaction from the weight loss. I started to feel really good about myself, so that led to me having anorexia and I used to just starve myself. I got as low as five and a half stone and I was about 5ft5ins at the time.
“With that I started to get quite ill. I developed a cough which led to vomiting. No one actually diagnosed me with having an eating disorder, but I do recognise that is what it was, it couldn’t have been anything else.
“I’d make myself sick every so often, just because I used to eat then feel really guilty for it, I would feel really disgusting.
“I used to shut myself away, I guess people thought I was just being unsociable, but I just felt so uncomfortable and disgusted with myself that I didn’t want anyone to see me. And still sometimes today I feel like that.
“I’m nearly 26 now so it’s quite a long time, but it’s quite hard to get over, I’m still definitely struggling with things now.
“I attempted to commit suicide twice. I really wanted to share this with people so other people feeling the same as me don’t feel alone and your feelings are just as important as everyone else’s.
“I had to get private counselling to get seen quicker. But that did really help me. I definitely have brought things on from those sessions into my everyday life which makes things more bearable.
“Now I’m not taking any anti-depressants or not having any counselling. I can’t really say that I’m happy…I can’t really say that I’ve experienced happiness in the full.
“There are certain emotions I have experienced that come with depression and anxiety and everything else that just feel more natural, like anger and sadness.
“When I’m happy I really question it. I kind of doubt or I don’t think I’m really worthy of the happiness I am experiencing. Yes I laugh, I smile, but there’s something within me that always feels slightly uncomfortable. “I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that pleases everyone and having pleased everyone I’ve never kind of just been myself, or know what just being myself is like.
“I know I’ve lived such a fortunate life. I’ve never had to want for anything. With that comes this huge guilt. It’s like a constant thing in my head that just goes round and round and round and round and everyone tries to help.
“They make it out to be so easy, and it makes you feel so stupid like, ‘why can’t I do that then?’, ‘why can’t everything just be okay?’ and ‘why can’t I just be like a normal person?’.
“And, then you fight with yourself so much, it’s crazy! The fights that I’ve had in my head! Because, I see things in so many different perspectives, that’s where I struggle.
“I guess it’s just my story and my experience. It’s hard, so hard, and so isolating. Like, not being able to talk about anything, its one of the hardest things to hold it all inside, to just deal with it all yourself is such a weight to carry. If anything I’ve learnt I don’t have to carry it on my own.”
A memorial website set up to raise money for two charities specialising in mental health care has already raised more than £3,000.
The ‘Memorial to Jacqueline Boulton’ page also contains dozens of tributes to the 26-year-old from her friends and family.
The family hopes it will help raise vital funds for both The Samaritans and Rethink Mental Illness.
To make a donation visit jacquelinekay.boulton.muchloved.com
Call The Samaritans on 116 123.
Log onto rethink.org/home for more on Rethink Mental Health.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Source: Mental Health Foundation
- Tiredness and loss of energy.
- Sadness that doesn’t go away.
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting.
- Feeling anxious all the time.
- Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends.
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual.
- Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Finding it hard to function at work/college/school.
- Loss of appetite.
- Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems.
- Physical aches and pains.
- Thinking about suicide and death.