Parents share diary of daughter's mental health battle

By Phil Shepka
BBC News

  • Published
Tia Tuck with dogs, Biscuit and DominoImage source, Tuck Family
Image caption,
Tia Tuck was found dead at her home in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, on 5 March 2018

The parents of a woman who took her own life have shared their personal diary of a month in her life in an attempt to help others feel "less alone".

Tia Tuck, 23, had emotionally unstable personality disorder and died in 2018.

Her parents sent an email diary to the NHS trust she was under the care of, during which they said they could "no longer cope" and were in crisis.

They said they hoped publishing it could help portray the reality of living with the illness.

Ms Tuck's mother Sue said: "You feel so isolated. People haven't heard of it but the reality is it's one of the most serious mental health illnesses I've come across."

Mr and Mrs Tuck, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, first became aware of their daughter's issues when she was 15 and they received a call from her school saying Tia had said she "wanted to take her own life".

Her father, Steve, said it came as a "bolt out of the blue" and she ended up in a mental health ward, where she still managed to get 11 GCSEs.

Image caption,
Sue and Steve Tuck hope sharing the diary can provide the "reality" of their daughter's illness

Ms Tuck was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), also known as borderline personality disorder (BPD), at the age of 18. She also had anorexia, bulimia and depression.

Her mother said they "were thrown into a world that we didn't understand".

Mrs Tuck said her daughter had "horrific mood swings" but she added: "The people that met Tia when she was 'the nice Tia' said what a perfectly charming, lovely girl she was."

During the summer of 2017, her parents recorded a diary about their daughter's life, which they have now chosen to share with others.

Monday 31 July - Dad sent pictures of [Tia's two] dogs after they had eaten Sunday lunch and saying we would visit Tuesday evening but didn't get a response. She rang later in the day to say that she was being assessed for a hostel on Thursday and could she come home while she waits - we didn't know at that time that she had overdosed last Thursday and was on one-to-one. We refused the request to stay.

Tuesday 1 August - We walked the dogs with Tia for just under an hour visiting Tesco to buy a few bits during the walk. Tia's mood was average. In the evening she told us that she had overdosed on the previous Thursday evening, self-harmed and went to Addenbrooke's. Tia returned back to the ward in time to see EastEnders.

Wednesday 2 August - It was later in the day when she made contact and she seemed in a difficult mood, she rang in the evening and had a long engaging conversation.

The diary, which was sent weekly to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), whose care Ms Tuck was under, also included entries when Tia "appeared in a normal state of mind".

But on 16 August, an entry told of Mr Tuck receiving a call from his daughter "in total distress, telling [him] she was being discharged".

Image source, Tuck Family
Image caption,
The charity Mind said those living with EUPD "deserve understanding and support"

It said he called the ward to tell them "they were chucking a vulnerable young adult out on to the streets with nowhere to live and is therefore likely to kill herself".

The final entry also detailed the impact it had on her mother, who was signed off work with anxiety and stress "over the pressure of the situation".

Tia was found dead at her home in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, on 5 March 2018.

Image caption,
A print out of the diary compiled by Tia Tuck's parents, as well as text messages with her

What is EUPD/BPD?

Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, said the feelings and behaviours associated with EUPD/BPD, were "very difficult to live with, and deserve understanding and support".

Mr Buckley said a diagnosis may be given if a person had at least five of the following characteristics, and they had lasted for a long time or had a big impact on daily life:

  • Feeling very worried about people abandoning them
  • Very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly
  • No strong sense of who you are, and it can change significantly depending on who you are with
  • Finding it very hard to make and keep stable relationships
  • Feeling empty a lot of the time
  • Acting impulsively and doing things that could harm themselves
  • Often self-harming or having suicidal feelings
  • Very intense feelings of anger, which are really difficult to control
  • When very stressed, experiencing paranoia or dissociation.

A spokesman for CPFT said Ms Tuck's death "was a tragedy and we would like to extend our sympathies to her family".

He said new procedures, "including improving the co-ordination of care between agencies and our services", had since been put in place.

The spokesman added: "Personality disorders can be highly complex and highly challenging for the patient and their family members as well as the staff from all agencies, not just the NHS, who are dedicated to caring for them.

"However, as treatments and overall understanding of such conditions continues to advance, people with personality disorders can lead the fulfilling lives they wish to live."

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can contact Samaritans by calling 0330 094 5717 and help is also available via the BBC Action Line.

Additional photography by Laurence Cawley

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