Brooke Martin

Photo of a young woman with long strawberry-blond hair, wearing a white tank top, smiling for the camera. She has fair skin and brown eyes; her head is tilted.Name: Brooke Martin.
Died: June 11, 2019.
Age at death: 19.
Cause of death: Suicide.
Location: Milton Keynes, England, UK.

Brooke wanted to become a veterinarian. She was “very caring, thoughtful, and sensitive,” her mother remembers.

Diagnosed with autism and emotionally unstable personality disorder, Brooke had been living with the risk of suicide for some time. She had been repeatedly hospitalized involuntarily due to suicide attempts and self-injury.

Hospitalized once again in a unit that supposedly specialized in personality disorders, Brooke initially improved, but then became suicidal again. Staff observed her handling “potential ligatures” which she had hidden under her blanket; but nobody did anything to help. Only minutes later, having been left unattended despite her obvious and active suicidal intent, she was found unconscious in her room. She died the next day.

An inquest found that the hospital had failed to protect Brooke in several ways. They had not searched her room after they saw her handling ligatures, nor had they taken the ligatures away; she was not put on 1:1 observation; and staff who had seen Brooke in danger did not report the problem.

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Lauren Bridges

Selfie of a teenage girl with her dark-blond hair in braids; she has fair skin, blue eyes, and braces on her teeth. She is smiling, and wearing a gray Minnie Mouse shirt.Name: Lauren Bridges.
Died: February 26, 2022.
Age at death: 20.
Cause of death: Suicide/Systemic Failure (Suicide after long-term inadequate treatment).
Location: Manchester, England, UK.

Lauren was a brilliant student who wanted to be either a doctor or a pediatric nurse. Her mother remembers her as loving and gentle.

When Lauren was eight, her younger brother Alfie died of mitochondrial disease, and Lauren’s grief triggered OCD and anxiety about protecting her family. She would perform rituals to calm her anxiety about her family coming to harm.

By fourteen years old, Lauren knew she was mentally ill, and asked for help. She was hospitalized voluntarily. But the unit had no therapy, and no treatment plan. Her autism was misdiagnosed as a personality disorder until she was 17 years old.

Over the next several years, Lauren was an inpatient in six different facilities, and none offered adequate treatment. She had little or no therapy and few activities. She was locked away from daylight and exercise. Sometimes, she was put into seclusion without even a bed–just a ground sheet to sleep on.

Lauren died from suicide while hospitalized.

Lauren’s mother, who fought to try to get Lauren the care she needed when she was alive, is now collecting signatures on a petition to keep autistic children from being detained in hospitals far away from home and away from their parents, to prevent autism from being misdiagnosed as a personality disorder, to establish suicide-prevention measures, and to provide therapy and activities for all inpatients in mental wards and psychiatric hospitals.

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Isabella Tichenor

Photo: An African-American girl with light-brown skin, brown hair tied into two small buns. She is smiling, showing a small gap between her front teeth. She is wearing a leopard-print sweater.Name: Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor.
Died: November 7, 2021.
Age at death: 10.
Cause of death: Suicide (After long term bullying).
Location: North Salt Lake, Utah, USA.

Izzy, a fifth-grader, was constantly bullied at school for being autistic and being black. She reported the bullies multiple times; the school did nothing, and a teacher even joined in. Her mother talked to the principal; again, nothing was done.

Isabella died by suicide at the age of 10.

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Semina Halliwell

Photo: A teenage girl with long brown hair, brown eyes, and olive-tone skin, wearing a white tank top.Name: Semina Halliwell.
Died: June 12, 2021.
Age at death: 12.
Cause of death: Suicide (Medication overdose).
Location: Southport, England, UK.

Semina was raped, allegedly by an older boy at her school. Traumatized, she told her mother what had happened. Semina, her mother, and her aunt went to the police together; she named her attacker and reported the rape.

But the police did not attempt to help her. Instead, the lead detective only talked about how much paperwork she’d have to do, and how the case would take a long time, and how it would be her word against his.

After reporting the rape, Semina was harassed at school and online. She was assaulted at school, and her family was threatened with violence.

Three months after she first reported the rape, Semina told her parents that she was fed up, went to her room, took an overdose of medication, and died.

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Zoe Zaremba

Photo of a young woman with fair skin, brown hair in a purple bow, dangle earrings, and a silver charm necklace. She is wearing a gray jacket over a purple T-shirt that reads, "Swim with mermaids, ride a unicorn, fly like a cheerleader."Name: Zoe Zaremba.
Died: June 21, 2020.
Age at death: 25.
Cause of death: Suicide (Misdiagnosis; improper treatment).
Location: Aiskew, England, UK.

Zoe loved gymnastics and cheerleading. Her mother remembers attending competitions with Zoe, and remembers her as “an amazing, intelligent person with a dry sense of humor” who “helped many people with her knowledge and kind words”. Zoe valued truth and honesty.

Zoe’s mental health began to suffer when she was bullied in school at 13; at 16, she was diagnosed with autism. However, she continued her education and became a qualified accountant.

Zoe was unable to access proper mental health care; that which she did get was from people who had “limited understanding of autism”. She had a slow processing speed, which meant she took a while to respond to things–and staff saw this as her being “difficult, hostile, and challenging”. She was eventually misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder because of her tendency toward self-injury, despite having no other traits of the disorder. She was put into BPD treatment and developed what her mother believes was post-traumatic stress disorder.

The diagnosis of BPD followed Zoe through the mental health system. Even when a further evaluation concluded that she did not, and had never had, BPD, the diagnosis stayed on her records. This bothered Zoe a great deal, because she greatly valued truth and did not want an incorrect diagnosis on her record. She wrote a tweet that read, “I feel trapped in a living nightmare they have taken my hope and identity from me.”

As her mother says, “[Zoe] could never get her head around the fact that they had her down for a condition she never had. It upset her deeply. They had turned her into someone she was not.”

Zoe died by suicide.

Editor’s note: Borderline personality disorder, now called emotionally unstable personality disorder, is a common misdiagnosis for autism in young women. Autistic people sometimes self-injure to try to handle extreme sensory, social, and cognitive stress; but “professionals” who see a young woman with a self-injury problem may automatically assign a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder–even when the autistic person in question has no other traits of EUPD. This is compounded by the fact that, in the psychology profession, people with EUPD are stereotyped as problem patients–needy, clingy, manipulative, and anger-prone. People with EUPD stereotyped this way tend to receive substandard treatment; an autistic person will have autistic traits immediately misinterpreted in the worst possible ways. Zoe, who had survived bullying in school, found herself being bullied yet again by the people who were supposed to help her.

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