Losing Heather

On June 8th last year, I read a report in the Manchester Evening News, following the inquest of 18-year-old Heather Blower (top). On December 27th 2015, Heather had been found by her twin sister Heidi, hanged in her bedroom. Following this, I wrote a summary of the inquest as a news item.

Last month, I was contacted by Heather’s mother Paula, who had found my report after searching for Heather’s name on Google. We exchanged e-mails, and Paula told me the shocking background to Heather’s death. She agreed to let me publish her story.

These are Paula’s words:

In December 2014, I noticed some scratches at top of Heather’s arms. I asked her, “How have you done that?” She replied that she didn’t know.

A week or so later I returned from work. Heidi told me, “Heather’s scratching her arm.” I asked her and made her show me. It looked sore but not cut or anything.

I asked Heather: “What’s wrong? What’s going on?” She replied that she was ok. I told her I would take her to the doctor’s in the morning, and I phoned the twins’ dad to tell him.

Heather did not want to go in the morning, but said she would go with her dad in the evening. When they turned up, the GP told them off for making the appointment, as evening appointments were supposed to be for emergencies. The doctor said to Heather, “Let me see your arm.”

Heather was upset by the GP’s attitude, and her dad said to the GP, “Please don’t speak to my daughter like that; we couldn’t get her to come this morning.” The doctor said he would refer her to CAMHS. When she got back home, Heather said she would never go there again.

Anyway, the referral came. I took her to see a psychiatrist at CAMHS in February. She asked Heather questions that she read from her computer. At one point Heather asked: “Can you stop staring at me?”

I told her Heather had anxiety since she was about 15 (She was 17 by now). The psychiatrist took me to another room and told me she was prescribing Fluoxetine as Heather had depression, and to keep the tablets away from Heather, along with anything in the home she could harm herself with, like belts, knives, tablets, etc. I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. She said it was very important she took her meds everyday, early morning, and she gave us our next appointment.

Each morning, before I left for work at 6am, I’d wake up Heather to take her tablet. If only I’d known what I was giving my own child, slowly killing my baby.

After about four weeks of taking meds, one night in March, Heather seemed a bit strange so I got into bed with her. She started asking what Heaven’s like. She said she wanted to go, that this world was not meant for her. She told me how she wanted a song I’d not heard played at her funeral. She said: “Play this at my funeral and it will make Heidi and my friends smile.”

I asked her what was wrong, but she was smiling, singing the song over. “Mum, after a few months you’ll get over me and you won’t have to put up with me.”

I replied, “Oh, Heather, it would destroy me and all of us forever. We’d never get over it. Please don’t ever say or do things like that.” I told her how special she was to me and that she was my perfect girl.

We lay in bed. I must have dozed off because it was 3am when I heard: “Mum, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”  I opened my eyes to see her hands, her pyjamas and the bed covered in blood. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her wrist to stop the bleeding. I got stuff to clean it up and I told her we had to go to A&E. She was reluctant, but I knew it was quite bad.

Heather said, “I’m sorry. I wanted to die, then when I did it I thought: ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ But I wanted to die, I don’t know what’s up with me.”

At A&E, she was seen by a psychiatrist. I told her she’d been on antidepressants for about four weeks – I was told to keep her on them. Heather had an operation and was discharged, and was told they’d inform her psychiatrist and GP.

Heather now had a new GP, as she refused to go back to our old one. The psychiatrist at CAMHS saw Heather and myself again. She asked her about it and told me to keep giving her Fluoxetine, so I did. Heather seemed a little better over next few months, although at times she would have a stare like she was somewhere else.At the beginning of September, I was worried and decided I’d slowly stop her meds.

By the end of October she’d stopped them completely. She no longer self-harmed, she was doing well and looked happier. She started going on nights out with Heidi and their friends. In all this time, she was refused sickness benefit because she failed to attend the job centre. She couldn’t go because of her anxiety. Anyway, her cousin Holly appealed and they wanted a sick note.

Towards the end of November 2015, Holly went with Heather to the GP, as I was working, to ask for a sick note as Heather had anxiety. Holly did the talking for her and explained why she needed a sick note. The doctor gave Heather a prescription for Fluoxetine again and referred her for counselling. The appointment came through for January, after her death.  Heather told me he gave her a prescription, but she was not going to take them. She said that she had to have the script, so the job centre would pay her, and said that her benefit was being backdated. Again, it came after her death.

I didn’t know she was taking the pills again until after her death. She used to send her friend for her repeat script.  By this time, Heather had missed (I think) three appointments with the psychiatrist at CAMHS and they’d discharged her.

We’d had a good few months and a really nice Christmas at my family’s, but Heather had that look in her eyes that night. I remember thinking I was a bit worried, so we went home. Heather and Heidi went to bed. I was chatting in their room. They said they were going out the next night. Heather asked: “Mum, can I borrow some money? I’m getting my benefit in a few days.” I told her yes.

It was planned that my two sisters and I would go to my dad’s house and stay over the following night. We used to always stay at weekends after my mum died in 2009, but since Heather became ill I never did. This time I promised I would.

The twins were getting ready. Heather was sat on her bed doing her make-up; she was so happy she was going out with Heidi and Shannon, their best friend. I felt uncomfortable leaving them all night even though they were now 18, and Shannon was also sleeping at ours and was a sensible girl.

I gave Heather the money, and she said, “Aw, thanks Mum. When I get my money, I’m giving most of it to you.” I told her I didn’t want it. She promised not to have much to drink, and we said, “Goodbye, love you.” That was the last time I saw her alive. Her friends said that she was happy, bubbly, and that she didn’t have many beers.

Heidi was going on to a party and split up from Heather and Shannon, so they went home, got in bed and they watched a film. I’d been texting them through the night. At about 3am, Heather said they were going to sleep, so we said night-night. I didn’t sleep well, but I was in bed at about 9.30 when we were woken by the police to tell me that my beautiful, strong, perfect girl had taken her life by hanging.

I found out later that Shannon had got up and decided to go home at 6.10am. Heidi and her friends returned home about 8:30am. Heidi went in the bedroom to wake her sister and found her. They took Heather down – she had hanged herself from the top cupboard. They phoned 999. One of the boys tried to resuscitate her, as Heidi held her inseparable twin and closed her eyes.

Our lives turned upside down. We were all broken. There were so many “if only”s.

Two days after the funeral I had to go to the town hall to write a statement. I was given Heather’s note that said  “Sorry XXX” and the PIN to her phone.

The inquest came. I didn’t want to go but was told I had to. I was in such a state, all I could think about was the dressing-gown belt around my daughter’s neck, then her lying in the morgue, then her coffin, then a pile of washing on her bed, then my birthday in October when Heather was out with me and we had a really nice night out.

All that mixed up in my mind and I said to the coroner something about Heather in the bedroom with a dressing-gown belt in October, and they told me it wasn’t in my statement. I am in turmoil over this, as it was all mixed up in my mind. I’d messed Heather’s inquest up, I let her down and I really was so angry with myself. I wish the inquest had been later – I’d have shouted out all I know now. The last GP Heather had was the only medic at her inquest. He said that although Heather was quiet, he had no idea she was suicidal.

I then started to read stuff. I became obsessed day and night. The mental health early intervention team had started coming weekly to see Heidi, trying to give her antidepressants. I told them: “No, she’s not having them, they killed Heather!” I kept saying no.

The mental health nurse said: “We’ve had a meeting. Our psychiatrist is coming to see you and Heidi. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the psychiatrist thinks it will be a good idea if we put Heidi in a flat because you’re stopping her having antidepressants and getting well.”

I was crying. I was confused, made to feel I was a bad mother, as if I wasn’t bad enough not refusing them for Heather. A week later the psychiatrist, the mental health nurse and a bereavement counsellor sat in my living room with Heidi and myself trying to convince Heidi to take them. Heidi said: “Well, yes, I want to get better so I’ll try them.”

I went crazy: “No, how dare you come here, ignoring me, asking my daughter to take them?” They replied that she was an adult, so it wasn’t up to me. I asked Heidi to leave the room, and shouted at them, “You’re not giving my daughter antidepressants. They killed Heather. I’m not losing another child.”

They tried to make me feel so irresponsible, they even said: “Well, if she doesn’t have them, how will you feel if she takes her life? She needs something.” The psychiatrist said she would get a pharmacist to come and explain about antidepressants so I would understand.

I still refused and said: “I don’t care that she’s now 19 – I’m her mum and I am not losing another child to suicide caused by your antidepressants.” It all went quiet for moment. They were all looking at me, and I said, “I’d like you all to leave now.”

The psychiatrist looked into my eyes and said, “I’m sorry you feel that it’s your fault because you gave Heather the tablets.” They went, and never tried to see Heidi or give her drugs again, as they knew I was not going to change my mind.

Heidi got good care without meds. She is still a bit low but she’s doing much better, and she’s alive. We both still don’t really go out much. Our lives changed forever after our beautiful Heather was taken from us by antidepressants.

Heather was initially given antidepressants, completely contrary to NICE Guidelines, simply because of responses given to a dodgy computerised quiz. This program was probably the PHQ-9 Patient Health Questionnaire, described as an easy-to-use, nine-question form, and which sets the threshold extremely low, resulting in patients being wrongly diagnosed, medicated, and thereby put at risk. The program was produced by Pfizer, makers of antidepressants Sertraline and Venlafaxine.

When Heather was starting to have suicidal thoughts and then cut her wrist after four weeks on Fluoxetine, Paula (below, with Heather) took the sensible option of gradually tapering her dosage until she was free of the drug.

Heather was re-prescribed Fluoxetine simply because this was a condition of her receiving sickness benefit. The doctor took no account of Heather’s previous adverse reaction to the same drug. The tragedy is that Paula did not know that Heather had started to take them again shortly before her death.

Heidi was not depressed – she was grieving and traumatised. What I find absolutely reprehensible is the attempt of the mental health team to bully her into taking the same drugs that were responsible for the loss of her beloved sister, and to threaten to re-house her if her mother would not agree to this course of action.

Fortunately, Paula stood up to the bullies. She is a remarkable, courageous woman, and I thank her for allowing me to publish Heather’s story.


Further reading:

Mother Reveals Shocking Truth Behind Daughter’s Death by Bob Fiddaman


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Why we shouldn’t give Prozac to children

Were these children given Prozac?

Pushy Parents and Prozac

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13 Replies to “Losing Heather”

  1. Paula is the bravest and most dignified woman I know.
    Heather is missed so much by everyone, our beautiful girl who was most definitely a victim of social ‘experiments’.
    Anti-depression medication should not be dealt out to young people at the drop of a hat. Most young people are simply confused by growing up; it’s hard to understand turning from child to ‘adult’.
    I believe Heather would still be here with her loving family if it had not been for Fluoxetine. It’s time to stop this drug being given to young people.

    • Heartbreaking as well as infuriating.

      I’m angry, totally and utterly infuriated at the way this was handled by these incompetent imbeciles who pose as “specialists” in their fields.
      It’s become a game, a big game where those who profess to have all the answers seem to overlook any form of logic. It’s almost turned into some twisted, sick form of religion, we can’t prove something, we just feel it’s right.
      This is wrong on so many different levels and I’ll be covering it on my blog soon. This needs highlighting, it needs circulating. It is, of course, all too familiar.
      Paula has now joined the circle of all the others who have loved and lost because some lickspittle chose to ignore the obvious signs.
      No person should ever have to join that circle, sadly it’s widening because of pharma greed, ignorant and uneducated healthcare providers and limp-wristed medicine regulators.
      Paula, for what it’s worth, the circle has many good people and I’m certain at some point they will reach out to you. Don’t suffer in silence, there are many that feel your pain, your suffering, your loss.

      Thank you for speaking out.

  2. Another utter waste of a beautiful young person because of the lies, deceit and money-first attitude of pharmaceutical companies, uneducated GPs and poorly advised mental health teams.
    I am so sad to read this and hope beyond the end of the world that the ‘circle’ that Fid mentioned closes soon, so that no-one else will join the 1000s of parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers et al who have lost loved ones because of the downright lies by Big Pharma.
    RIP Heather

  3. Too many are treated this way. I’m finally on disability in the US but I know it’s predicated on my receiving “treatment” for my “disorders”. And I’m told the treatment is only valid if it’s from an MD or PhD. I’d sooner slit my own throat than see one of these murderers.
    It’s been 4 years since I’ve been able to work. It was 2 years of being nuts and getting worse because of these drugs, including Prozac which gave me homicidal ideation in the two weeks I was on it.
    I used to spend my time on Twitter and Facebook posting all I could to alert anyone who would listen to the Russian Roulette and murder that was taking place in doctors’ offices world wide. No one would listen. Only those who had first hand experience with the utter devastation these drugs cause.
    Thank you for continuing a fight I’m just not strong enough for. My heart goes out to Paula and Heidi.

  4. Yes, unfortunately I know only too well how “experts” bully parents when it comes to the welfare of their children. Thank goodness Paula stood up to them, for Heidi’s sake.
    My 8 year old was prescribed Zoloft (Sertraline) for anxiety and became suicidal. First, the prescribing pediatrician wanted to increase his dose, then he took him off them abruptly, resulting in my son suffering horrible withdrawal. During that time, the “experts” assigned to his care prescribed an antipsychotic, which I refused to give him. At one point I was terrified they would use my refusal as grounds to take him out of my care and declare me unfit. My husband and his whole family certainly thought I was the crazy one for not doing as the doctors wanted.
    The “experts” also kept insisting that my son return to school, threatening to report us to the Department of Education. Most days he didn’t last more than a couple of hours before I was called to collect him, screaming and shaking and trying to hurt himself. I’m sure many of his classmates were traumatised by what they saw.
    Not one of the half a dozen or so medical professionals we encountered during this time ever acknowledged that Zoloft was responsible for what my son was suffering. We had to find that out for ourselves by doing our own research. Thank God we did, because if we hadn’t and just blindly followed their instructions, no doubt my son would now be lost in the mental health system on a daily cocktail of psychiatric drugs.
    And it’s true that unless people have first-hand experience of the negative effects of these drugs, they don’t heed warnings that trusting doctors can be the worst mistake you can make.
    I wonder how many people have to die before it’s understood that the doctors have got it terribly wrong when it comes to these drugs.

  5. If we are not alone, then we need to create a revolution. I lost my twin brother in May this year following only 10 days on Fluoxetine. We live in Sydney and I am trying to create a letter to the coroner so that the link with his medication and suicide is strong.
    I am also a midwife, so I am appalled at the negligent system we call mental health. Yet, if there are so many voices of concern, why don’t we join together and fight this?

  6. No one should ever have to go through this pain. A family destroyed and let down, nothing could ever be the same for any of you.
    Thinking of you Billy, Paula and all your family. Stay strong and close, you’re all so amazing x

  7. Paula, you are a true inspirational mother and the world should have more people like you … My heart goes out to you and your family xxxxx

  8. These anti-depressant companies need to be stopped! They make these drugs/poisons that create mind altering, body altering side effects. And because the withdrawal symptoms are even worse than most side effects, they have us hooked and believing that what we experience on the drugs would be so much worse if we were not on them… utter BS!
    They need to be held accountable for all they’ve done to us and our loved ones… once and for all. Disgusted!

  9. I thank you all for taking the time to read “Losing Heather”.
    Raising awareness is what I’m trying to do. If I’d have known about a story like mine, my beautiful, innocent daughter would have lived the long, fulfilled life she deserved, as did all the thousands of others.
    I may not be wealthy, intelligent, or claim to know everything about medication, but I do know my daughter wanted to live.
    I watched her become almost a stranger, and I was led to believe it was depression by the experts – the very people we trust to help us get well. What makes me so very, very angry is the fact that they’ve always, right from the beginning, known about the fatal side effects of these mind altering drugs.
    My daughter’s death certificate says “Suicide” when it should say “Drug Induced Death”.
    As a mother, I will fight for change till I die. My Heather would never have willingly chosen to end her life. My pain and my family’s pain is so indescribable, and time doesn’t heal. It’s not like other deaths where we go through the grieving process. I may be just another mum whose child died to those who thought I’d accept her death, but I’m Heather’s Mum and I’m broken.
    I loved that girl – a twin – from the moment I knew I was growing life inside me. She was my perfect girl and she should be here with her twin sister and her brother and sister, her dad and myself.
    Heather was stolen from me in the blink of an eye. So no, I will never get over her. I will never stop loving and longing for her and I will never ever stop fighting for her. She was my perfect girl who was stolen from me.

  10. It’s coming up to my Heather’s two-year anniversary, yet it still seems like yesterday. I’ve come to realise that many died from antidepressant-induced deaths before her, and many after her, and it goes on.
    Nothing has changed, the lies, the deceit, the cover ups still go on. Our pain and suffering is so incredibly intense and will always be as long as no one is held accountable. What sort of world do we live in?
    People read our sad heartbreaking stories and tell us how sorry they are, how we’ve opened their eyes, even shared our stories. Then they ask how we’re doing, are we moving on yet, are we going to stop all this now, it’s been nearly two years.
    No, we never get over it, we never move on. It’s like our loved ones were murdered and the ones responsible are free to keep on doing it.
    People say stop reading stuff, let it go.
    No, never, would they if it were their loved ones? My child had a life, she deserved to live. My child was a bit sad, a bit stuck, but in time she’d have found her way as we do.
    I made a big mistake taking her to the doctors. Once they got her she became a guinea pig.
    One day we will look back at this and say that was the big antidepressant scandal, where thousands of innocent people lost their lives. Where families fought for truth and justice. I hope it’s in my life time.
    It’s breaking my heart more than it’s already broken each time another life’s lost and another family’s destroyed. Christmas for my family is pain and we no longer celebrate, we go away to a very quiet place in Wales and hibernate until it’s all over.
    My pain is who I am now. I miss my beautiful Heather. I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you.

  11. My daughter was taken to A&E, 4 weeks after first starting Fluoxetine, with both her wrists cut so badly that she needed an operation and stitches. She was then seen by two psychiatrists, who I told she was on Fluoxetine for 4 weeks. One of them was the psychiatrist who diagnosed Heather and prescribed it by reading and asking questions off her computer who we spent ten minutes with. She still told my daughter to carry on taking them after a serious attempt to take her life but didn’t know why or what was up with her.
    Surely both of those psychiatrists should have stopped the Fluoxetine because it was clear to them my daughter had an adverse reaction to the antidepressants. My daughter was told to keep taking them. I then myself got her off them because I didn’t like how they changed my child. Then she was put back on them by her GP and 4 weeks later she hanged herself.
    I’m told it’s suicide and I’m supposed to accept that. They all cover up and protect each other when it’s all so clear. How can they all sleep at night, knowing they played a part in my child’s death?
    My daughter died from a reaction to antidepressants, a reaction for the second time. Her life could and should have been saved. They should have stopped the medication the first time she had a serious reaction. I’m not intelligent, but I clearly see this is not suicide. I feel my child was used for a pharmaceutical experiment, therfore this is manslaughter.

  12. 7 years today my heart was shattered, life as it was changed forever 💔
    My beautiful Heather died to antidepressant induced suicide.
    Time hasn’t healed, it never will . . Forever 18 ❤
    Heartbroken mum xxx

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