Teen’s suicide shatters those left behind

Jessica could never have known the level of torment she was leaving behind for her mother, Melinda Graham. Photo: Adam McLean

Jessica could never have known the level of torment she was leaving behind for her mother, Melinda Graham. Photo: Adam McLean

For her family, Jessica Tolhurst's end marked a horrible beginning.

The Unanderra 14-year-old took her own life on December 7 in circumstances clouded by bullying and depression. 

She could never have known the depth of the torment she was leaving behind for her mother, Melinda Graham, to discover.

''I'm trying to keep busy because if I sit down for too long and think about it, I'm going to break,’’ Mrs Graham said. 

Jessica pictured with her puppy, Pepsi. Source: Facebook

Jessica pictured with her puppy, Pepsi. Source: Facebook

"The hole that it leaves; it's just unbearable.’’

Jessica grappled with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder from the age of 10 and had barely attended school for the past four years.

Her mother and stepfather, Dave Graham, believe her troubles were made worse by bullying at Figtree High School.

They say the abuse persisted over the phone and on social media. 

Dave and Melinda Graham. Photo: Adam McLean

Dave and Melinda Graham. Photo: Adam McLean

“It started out as something little – just girl nastiness,” Mrs Graham said. 

“I went to the school when [one of the tormentors] told Jess she would stomp on her head if she went back to school.”

“One day Jess rang to say [the girl] was out the front of the house. She said, ‘I’m scared to go into town. I’m scared to be here because she knows where we live’.

“We had the police involved in the past couple of months.”

Jessica battled depression, anxiety and an eating disorder for four years.

Jessica battled depression, anxiety and an eating disorder for four years.

Left with the tragedy, Jessica’s 17-year-old brother Jack cannot bear to be in the house where he lost his sister. The family is in the process of moving. 

Mrs Graham wants other teens who could be looking suicide as a way out to think about the pain that it leaves behind. 

She wants them to look ahead, to life beyond high school. 

"There's a lot of guilt. You look back and think, 'when she asked to go for a walk, why didn't I say yes? That's one more memory I'd have of her'."

"There's a lot of guilt. You look back and think, 'when she asked to go for a walk, why didn't I say yes? That's one more memory I'd have of her'."

“My Jess, if she knew she was going to put this much pain on us, she would never have done this,” she said. 

“There’s more to life and that’s what these kids need to realise. They can’t see past tomorrow. 

“If Jess only knew how much love was out there for her, she would have made it to the next day. Life after high school would have been awesome for her.”

Melinda Graham, right, hugs a supporter at the Unanderra Bowl.

Melinda Graham, right, hugs a supporter at the Unanderra Bowl.

Call for kindness in wake of teen tragedy

Jessica Tolhurst liked to skate, so it was at the Unanderra Bowl that a crowd gathered to release balloons in her memory last month.

Facing a sea of young faces, Dave Graham spoke of the bullying he believed exacerbated his stepdaughter’s mental health problems. 

He called on Jessica’s peers to make a pledge to support one another.

“The idea [of the gathering]… is to let someone like me have a word to you about the hurt, the devastation this [suicide] causes,” he said. “Start picking up your friends … If you know your mate’s doing it hard, you pick the phone up and talk to him.” 

Jessica’s family is now creating an anti-bullying foundation called BobDan.

“This is our life now,” Mr Graham said. “We need to change attitudes.”