LEWISTON — For 18 months, Annabella “Anie” Graham, 13, suffered from depression. She cut herself. She cried at night that she wanted to die, her parents said.

They were at their wits’ ends trying to get her the mental health help she needed, but were unsuccessful.

On Monday, Anie, a seventh-grader at Lewiston Middle School, wrote a note in school that read: “I want to kill myself.”

She did Tuesday morning, her parents, C. Matt and Rosie Graham, said. Her father went to wake Anie up for school only to find her gone.

During an interview at their home Thursday, the couple said doctors failed them, mental health counselors failed them and the schools failed them.

The mental health system “is fragmented. It’s broken,” Rosie said, fighting back tears. Parents need to understand, “you’re on your own.”

Anie’s parents said they realized she was bullied after reading what her friends posted on social media. That likely contributed, they said, adding someone with depression wouldn’t take teasing well.

At school Anie was funny, laughed and joked. She hid her depression, her parents said. At home in recent months her depression and cutting led to talk of death.

Three months ago “she’d be crying all night: ‘I want to die, I want to die, I want to die,’” Matt said. Counseling she was receiving wasn’t working, he said. “I said, ‘We have to do something more serious.’”

They sought counseling, which was near impossible to find, he said. “I went to the school and begged for help. I said Rosie and I can’t do this anymore.”

The school was sympathetic, polite but could have been more helpful, he said. The school recommended Tri-County Mental Health.

The agency couldn’t give them an appointment for three weeks, he said. “The three weeks came and went. The woman (at Tri-County) canceled the appointment. We had to reschedule,” he said.

Meanwhile, his wife called 10 therapists; most said they didn’t take teens or didn’t accept their health insurer, Cigna, he said.

They have full-time jobs with health benefits, so insurance should not have been an obstacle to the mental health care she needed, he said. “I can go get Anie’s eyes checked. I can get her teeth checked. But they did not take care of her mental health.”

Two months ago when their daughter was threatening suicide they brought her to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston where she was almost hospitalized.

“But when she realized she’d have to stay, she said, ‘I’ll take my medications Mom,’” Rosie said.

The doctors “just sent me home with her,” Rosie said, adding she should have had outpatient therapy scheduled.

Monday was the first time Anie wrote of wanting to commit suicide.

The school called her parents to tell them they needed to take her from school. The school didn’t recommend what to do with her, or where to take her, Anie’s parents said. “They didn’t say, ‘Let’s call the crisis hotline now,’” she said.

Rosie took Anie to her pediatrician, who told Rosie they had a good visit.

“It sounded like he was ready to dismiss me,” she said.

Despite her note about suicide that day, Anie seemed better.

“We were given a superficial, generic evaluation of, ‘Right now, she’s talking good. Things must be good,’” Matt said.

Rosie said she asked about outpatient therapy and was told St. Mary’s had done away with that service because of funding, but there may be help in Brunswick. Her pediatrician said he’d get back to her, Rosie said.

They went home, had dinner and a better-than-normal night.

“She had done her chores that we didn’t ask her to do, which was out of the ordinary,” her father said. “She cleaned her room, which was completely out the ordinary. We had a good night. Around 10 she said, ‘I’m not going to school.’ I was confused because we had such a good night.”

The next morning he knocked on her door to get her up for school. She didn’t answer.

“I went in and found her,” he said.

“We were just stunned,” Rosie said.

She said she wishes she’d slept with her daughter that night.

“Parents need to recognize it’s a fragmented system,” Rosie said. “Don’t take your child’s note lightly.”

Whenever they write or talk about suicide, “sleep with them every time,” she said.

He said the schools, counselors and mental health systems need to react when there’s any talk of suicide.

“There should be an immediate set of protocols in place that says, ‘These are the steps you have to go through to evaluate whether you’re a harm to yourself,’” he said.

Instead they heard ‘Try this,’ ‘Try that,’ ‘Go to them,’” Matt said. “No one had a set procedure in place.”

When Anie was almost hospitalized, the psychiatrist recommended she receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We finally found a counselor,” Rosie said.

Her appointment was too late; it was scheduled for Wednesday.


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