“I think the whole system fails young girls and women…it failed my daughter”

THE family of a young mum who took her own life just five weeks after giving birth have pleaded with those struggling with post-natal depression to seek help.

Shaciara McDowell with her newborn son Cahir

Shaciara McDowell, 18, passed away at her Co Antrim home on Monday just a month after welcoming baby son Cáhir Gerard into the world.

Her family say the Ballymena mum-of-two was battling post-natal depression and did not receive the right support before she died.

In a heartbreaking interview just hours before laying her “caring” daughter to rest on Saturday, Shaciara’s mum Muriel told the Sunday World the 18-year-old had been “failed by the system”.

And she fears other mothers, and in particular young women, are also being let down.”I think the whole system fails young girls and women in that situation. It failed my daughter,” she said.
“She was trying to put that brave front up because I think there is a belief that you have to be the perfect mother, with all the adverts, and social media.

“I think children buy into that, and women buy into that, and then they feel they can’t tell somebody that they really can’t cope…I can’t tell anyone I feel like this.
“I can’t tell anyone I have anxiety; I can’t tell anyone about the intrusive thoughts or bad mental health. “That’s hard to say because they’ll think the person they are telling this to will think they are a failure.

“That person thinks I am a bad mother. And that’s what I feel about Shaciara.

“But we never, ever thought this would be the end result. Not in a million years.”

Shaciara, mum to one-year-old daughter Éire, gave birth to 6lb 12 oz baby boy Cahir on Tuesday, August 4.

Shaciara’s mum Muriel spoke to the Sunday World.

Now treasured pictures taken by her partner Cory-Lee Brett show the young mum lovingly nursing her newborn in the maternity ward of Antrim Area Hospital.

But within three weeks her mood “dropped”. Having previously suffered from depression following the birth of her first child, she sought help.

Mum-of-nine Muriel, 47, added: “It was around the third week when the post-natal depression started and that was the same with her first baby, the third week.

“And you are hoping it’s baby blues, but it was a lot deeper than anyone knew.

“The first time she was offered the right help, this time she was not. It was very disappointing to be honest. Nothing much was put in place.

“It set in very, very quickly, with both children. For a lot of women, it doesn’t appear until about three or four months. With her it was very fast.

“We tried to get it just her all the help we could and she tried to get the help she could, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Shaciara’s partner Cory-Lee said she was prescribed anti-depressants however, they had little effect.

Shaciara with her partner Cory-Lee Brett and their new baby son Cahir.

“She didn’t get as much help as she should have done,” he said.

“The anti-depressants weren’t doing much for her.”
Muriel added: “She did express that she was low, but there wasn’t much heed taken, I don’t think.

“I spoke to her a few days before she died, she wasn’t good.

“Shaciara would put the mask up. She would give you a wee bit, and then pull it back.

“She was very proud. She was very loving and very caring, put others before herself as well. She would never have wanted anyone to worry about her, and I think that is why she done what she done.

“I think she just thought she was a burden, feeling that way. She didn’t realise how supported and loved she was, but I think that’s because you are not in your own mind, you are not in your right mind.

“Your mind is dark and negative, and you think that everyone is against you, and all those feelings are not true.

“You can’t trust your mind when you feel like that.

“I think the whole system fails young girls and women in that situation. I personally went through it, and my husband at the time tried his best to help me as he could, but it was the end of our marriage it was that bad.
“It’s hard and it is frightening. I think you have the extra pressure of trying to be a very good mother, show everyone what a very good mother you are, especially the first time because the pressure is just too much because you are afraid to speak out and say, I can’t cope.

“I believe if she had of had the right support network, she would still be here.”
On Friday night, dozens of Shaciara’s friends and family, including her seven brothers and sisters, gathered outside her mum’s Dunclug Park home in a touching tribute to the 18-year-old.

Lanterns with heartfelt messages of love were set off as her favourite song ‘Grace’ played for young mum who “put everyone before herself.”

Sister Vanessa said: “She was always just so happy, you wouldn’t have known. That’s the biggest shock to us.”

“Shaciara would say something about being low, but then she would take it back very quickly….it would be followed by, but I am fine,” Savannah, another heartbroken sister, told the Sunday World.
On Saturday, her family and devastated partner Cory, now caring for their baby son, paid their final respects to the 18-year-old.

Baby Cahir wears a t-shirt with the moment his mum Shaciara welcomed him into the world last month.

She was laid to rest in Ballymena Cemetery where mourners let off balloons in a final goodbye to the cherished mum and daughter. Donations in lieu of family flowers were made to suicide awareness charity PIPS.Her family hope that by sharing Shaciara’s story, it will help others.

“Tell someone, don’t be afraid,” mum Muriel said. “Don’t think you have to be perfect because motherhood is not easy.

“It is the hardest job in the world. Don’t hide your feelings, talk to someone. If you can’t talk to your family, talk to your friends, even your local priest, even Lifeline, reach out to someone.

“My message is, do not sit and suffer in your own silence. I feel that from talking to a lot people over the last few days, people who have came to Shaciara’s wake, they felt that you shouldn’t take medication. It is very taboo, it’s seen as a weakness.

“But that is wrong, it does work, it does lift it, and gives you a clear head and make sense of what is happening to you.

“This is normal, it is hormonal, and it is an illness not a weakness. And it can be treated.”
Shaciara is survived by her mum, children, sisters Vanessa, Savannah and Sadie, and brothers Dylan, Ciaran, Andrew and Sean-Paul. She is also sister to the late Gerard.

A Go Fund Me page has now been set up by Vanessa’s partner Ashlea Thurlow to help the family during their difficult time. You can donate here: https://gf.me/u/yygvcb

*If you have been affected by issues raised in this article contact Lifeline free on 0808 808 8000 or The Samaritans on 116 123. Help is available 24 hours a day.

Shaciara McDowell

Published by Patricia Devlin

Award winning journalist based in Ireland covering crime and investigations.

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