'I've been planning a funeral when I should have been planning a 21st birthday' - grieving Edinburgh mum's pandemic mental health warning

A mum has paid a moving tribute to her daughter who took her own life after struggling with mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Setting up a charity: Stacey Baigan with Leonie
Setting up a charity: Stacey Baigan with Leonie

Leonie Baigan, 20, took her own life last month, two days before a gender reveal party to celebrate her mum's pregnancy, and was buzzing to become a big sister.

Mum-of-one Stacey Baigan, 40, said Leonie had sought help for mental health and had been signed off work from her job at a bank, but the family had no idea she was suicidal.

Leonie, from Edinburgh had spoken to her GP about her mental health but had not indicated she was thinking of taking her own life, which she did on March 4. She was laid to rest on Wednesday.

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Leonie did not tell anyone that she was suicidal Pic: Stacey Baigan

Stacey, who is six months pregnant, said mental health had become another pandemic in the course of lockdowns, and many young people were feeling isolated.

Leonie had a good job with career progression at Bank of Scotland, a doting boyfriend and good friends as well as a supportive family, and Stacey said the tragedy showed mental health needed to be taken seriously.

Gym instructor Stacey said: "I've been planning a funeral when I should have been planning a 21st birthday.

"It was just so unexpected, we had been trying to get help for her mental health but never in a million years did I think this was going to happen.

"We were trying to get her help for about two or three years, in December she started to speak about it more saying 'I can't explain this feeling in my head, I just want peace'."

On December 23 Stacey called NHS 24 to seek help, and on Christmas Eve Leonie was prescribed antidepressants - but was not keen to take them.

In February she was signed off work and given access to five private counselling sessions on the phone, but she was so shy she couldn't phone a taxi herself or order a takeaway.

She missed all the phone calls, and her mum said she felt face-to-face support should be given to people in crisis despite the pandemic.

Leonie was extremely shy and her mum believes she needed face-to-face support.

Stacey said: "On Christmas Eve she had been prescribed antidepressants but she hadn't been taking them.

"On February 8 she told my mum 'I can't go back to work', she was very good at hiding it, her work said they wouldn't have known.

"They offered five counselling sessions, we said we would pay for more, I couldn't put a price on my child's health.

"In the pandemic everything is done by phone, Leonie was so socially introverted she couldn't phone a taxi.

"She used to get her nails done at the same salon for about six years but she couldn't phone to make an appointment.

"For someone to speak to a complete stranger about their mental health on the phone, it is quite sensitive and personal."

On the day she died, Leonie had a 'down day' but Stacey said there was nothing unusual about it.

She had tried to encourage Leonie to buy some paint to redecorate the kitchen cupboards of the flat in Edinburgh she was renting, and to buy a notebook to record her feelings.

Stacey said: "She had best friends, she had a boyfriend, she had a good job with a great career, she wanted to do a mortgage advisor qualification.

"She was making plans, I'm six months pregnant and Leonie was going to pop the balloon at a gender reveal party.

"She was so excited, she was more excited than us, she was planning to pick up cupcakes.

"It didn't seem to me like it was planned.

"That day, she was having a down day but it wasn't any different from other down days.

"She was talking about what she was going to wear that Saturday."

In a bid to improve her mental health Leonie had come off social media for a month, upped her fitness levels by going for walks and cycling, and was buying and reading self-help books including writing a journal.

Stacey never asked her daughter if she was suicidal but they did discuss tragic TV presenter Caroline Flack, and Leonie was told the world wouldn't be a better place without her.

Her mum said: "She had a great future, she was in a relationship with a boyfriend who idolised her, she had friends, she did have all that support.

"At the start I put it down to teenagers but it was more than that.

"She had said to me 'how am I going to make friends, I'm too shy'.

"My thinking was we just needed to get this help and I hoped the antidepressants would help.

"She was so gentle and so generous to people - she was the biggest achievement in my whole life, it is devastating."

An appointment was offered by the NHS on March 22 - but it was on the phone, and Stacey said it would have been too hard for Leonie to open up unless it was in person.

She said: "I know we're in a pandemic but why can't it be in a room 2 metres apart, you can get a filling done but there isn't enough face to face support for people in crisis."

Stacey plans to complete an Open University degree in Criminology and Psychology and use her experiences to help others.

And she plans to start a charity, Leonie's Legacy,to help other young people facing mental health struggles.

Stacey added: "It is an invisible illness, if you break an arm you can see it.

"I believe that talking about it is a good start, if not we are losing a population."

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