Grieving mother speaks out against bullying

IN the days before she could see no way out, 15-year-old Courtney Love used a social networking site to reach out to others suffering from depression. It is a powerful and tragic irony that the troubled teenager who wanted to help others was ultimately unable to help herself.

She filmed herself sharing messages about the illness and self-harming, posted them on YouTube and encouraged people to contact her if they needed to talk.

Courtney died on October 5, 2012, after about two years suffering depression, as well as online and face-to-face bullying.

Her death will be the subject of a coronial inquest later this year.

Courtney's mum, Ness Love-Monk, believed she and her husband, Danny, did all they could to help Courtney get help but their instinct told them to prepare for the worst.

"I had a gut feeling. Call it mother's intuition. Every morning I would wake up and swallow and go and check if she was in there," she said. "It was heartbreaking to do that all the time."

Now, a little just over a year since her eldest daughter's death, Mrs Love-Monk is determined to pick up where her Courtney left off.

In part buoyed by support with more than 4000 likes on an RIP Facebook page for Courtney, Mrs Love-Monk has decided to speak out against all forms of bullying, but most particularly cyberbullying.

Since the page was created, both friends and complete strangers have contacted Mrs Love-Monk to tell her their own experiences with bullying and cyberbullying and even to say that sharing Courtney's story had saved lives.

Mrs Love-Monk said while she knew about and monitored Courtney's Facebook page, which she had had since she was about 13, her increasingly secretive daughter had created separate profiles and used Instagram and Tumblr to post a range of photos of herself including ones of self-harming.

Mrs Love-Monk said her daughter's self-image problems had created a scenario where she thought she was overweight and ugly.

And she said cybertrolls encouraged the self-harming, egging her on to ultimately take her life.

"She did not like herself at all, she would stand in front of the mirror and pick at herself - literally pick at herself and she was getting skinnier and she had been taking laxatives," she said.

"She had all these people on Instagram and telling her she was ugly - keyboard warriors, we call them - they just sit behind their keyboard and say all this awful stuff.

"There need to be laws in place to have the people held accountable for pushing people into such a dark place."

In the unthinkably sad time after Courtney's death, Ms Love-Monk tried to find contacts to shut down her daughter's accounts.

With the help of police, she was ultimately successful in having the Tumblr account closed and the goodbye video on YouTube taken down but despite messaging Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg a number of times, she has been unable to have Courtney's Facebook profiles closed.

In giving advice to other parents, Mrs Love-Monk urged them to trust gut instincts and when suspecting self-harming behaviour, look out for signs such as wearing long sleeves or pants in warm weather.

"Check in on your kids," she said. "It is hard if they are computer-smart like Courtney was. If parents have a gut instinct that something is amiss, try and talk to them and if they won't talk to you, get them to see a counsellor."

People have commended her strength, but Mrs Love-Monk said she did what she had to do for her other children - Chloe, 13, Faolan, 11 and Aylish, 9, and her own parents.

Mrs Love-Monk said Courtney and her father shared a special bond.

"She was Pop's girl," she said. "First grandchild. They would sit side by side in their recliners and they would watch the sporting channels and the dog races. They had a really close connection. It hit them really hard."

"I have three other kids, if I fall in a heap who's gonna look after them? I do what I need to do but I know I haven't grieved yet."

Mrs Love-Monk said she and her family had gained strength from the community, particularly the Kiama Soccer Club.

"She loved, loved soccer," she said. "She was a brilliant defender. I think soccer was an outlet for her."

Mrs Love-Monk is also in regular contact with Cassie Whitehill, whose 15-year-old sister, Chloe Fergusson, took her own life as a result of bullying in 2013.

Last October, Mrs Love-Monk and her then-partner Danny went ahead with a planned wedding.

He had been teaching Courtney guitar and she had been practising a song to play at their wedding.

"I still have her guitar next to my bed, I still have her soccer boots next to my bed," Mrs Love-Monk said.

This year, Courtney should have been preparing for her HSC. Mrs Love-Monk should have been helping her shop for a formal dress and advising her on her plans to follow her aunty into the Navy. Instead, she concentrates on ways to ensure her memory and her message to others endures.

.

Above the lounge hangs the framed registration of a star named after Courtney, given to Mrs Love-Monk by her work family, a picture of Courtney signed by friends in their former home in WA sits on the fireplace and Mrs Love-Monk sports a tattoo of the infinity symbol.

The symbol was a trademark of her daughter's. Courtney showed promise as an artist, although as the depression took hold, like the music she listened to, the drawing she loved took on dark themes.

But Mrs Love-Monk chooses to remember the eternal hope of the infinity symbol. "My whole life is about infinity now," she said. "To make a difference. To 'keep fighting, stay strong' as Courtney would say."

Getting help

■ Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) offers free and confidential counselling service for five to 25-year-olds - kidshelp.com.au.

■ Lifeline (13 11 14) offers free and confidential counselling - lifeline.org.au.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop