Emily Drouet's death shows us no-one should be waiting for help
The doorbell ringing in the middle of the night is never going to end well.
On Friday 18th March 2016 at 1.30am we answered the door to two police officers, with no idea our lives were going to irreparably shatter in moments – even the sight of them on the doorstep didn’t forewarn us of what was to come – it was beyond our comprehension, still is.
“We have some very bad news for you”. I desperately ask if it is a break in, my dad, my brother.
He takes my hand: “Is your daughter studying at the University of Aberdeen? Emily Drouet? I’m so sorry she has been found . . .”
I can only describe that moment as someone tearing you apart with their bare hands, ripping out your insides. The ground beneath us fell away, we plunged into the most terrifying darkness imaginable.
Only seven months after leaving home full of excitement to study law, Emily had ended her life.
It didn’t make any sense. She was happy, loving her new adventure, new friends, studying and partying, loving life. We’d chatted and texted that day, like every day. She had put on sparkly green eyeshadow to celebrate St Patrick’s night with friends.
How could this even be possible? Desperately trying to understand what happened was overwhelming. An agonising need to make it ok, to somehow change this. It’s too late, it’s too real, I can’t even help my own child. She had only stopped texting her 9-year-old-brother at 8pm when I’d told him it was bed time. Little did I know that the next time he’d wake up the world would be a very dark place, his big sister that he adored would be dead.
I feel sick when I type that word, dead, it’s still too final to accept.
The police brought my sister to me. My husband, my sister and I just held each other, shaking, numb, everything was so horribly empty. We lay there for a few hours, not wanting to tell our son and daughter that they would never see their big sister again. We’ll never forget the noises that came from them, their pain was absolute agony.
In the daze and emptiness of the time that followed we learned that Emily had been subjected to a merciless campaign of physical and emotional abuse by a fellow student. A horrific campaign, she lost all sense of her own worth.
They split up but he would not let go and returned to her room unannounced, a short while after she’d stopped texting me and her brother, to continue the abuse. After he left, she ran out of her flat terrified, looking for help but returned to her room alone. She closed her door and lost her battle within minutes. Our little girl died alone, in her room, scared and broken.
Emily had gone for help but the signs weren’t recognised. We have always been a very close family and Emily would never want to leave us in this pain but her mind took her to a place of despair, somewhere she couldn’t escape from.
We believe Emily needed to escape that moment and the only way she could find was to end her life. She needed the fear to stop.
In her unimaginable despair she found a solution to a problem, which although temporary, seemed permanent to her.
PTSD is a crippling condition and is more common than people think. It often goes undiagnosed and sets in very quickly. Emily died within two weeks of the trauma of being viciously assaulted and fearing for her life.
Suicidal thoughts aren’t discriminative and can often be relentless. Thoughts don’t only follow long-term mental health issues but short-term ones too. No amount of time has to lapse before people can feel overwhelmed so we have to ensure no-one is left waiting for help.
Never be afraid to show others how much you love them. Surround yourself with people who love and value you. And most of all, remember a quote Emily tweeted only days before we lost her – “Don’t confuse your path with your destination. Just because it’s stormy now, doesn’t mean you aren’t headed for sunshine”.
Fiona Drouet gave this account at Holyrood's recent suicide prevention event.