Becki Luscombe - One year on
Becki Luscombe, (@DuckBeaki), died on September 27th 2014, aged 23. One year on, Richard and Sue, recall the impact of losing their daughter, and also what they've gained.
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She's left such a legacy
We'd never given the word much thought before. A legacy was something you left in a will, or something you hope to continue after the Olympics.
We had lost the daughter we loved; suddenly and without warning. What good could possibly come of it? We soon found out.
"You realise you've started something now!"
A friend said this to Becki, after she gave a feisty presentation to MPs in June 2014. It was the first major event for the ten Voices of Mind; presenting the case for better mental health provision before the general election. All ten of them had 'started something', and they should be incredibly proud. They helped ensure that, for the first time, the major parties put mental health in their manifestos. Needless to say, a manifesto is one thing; a promise is another. In Becki's memory we, and many others, undertook to turn promises into action, to continue what she started.
It begins with a huge 'Thank You' to the countless people who helped ease our family out of the standstill of grief. You gave us a reason to move forward. We want to acknowledge the support of Paul Farmer and Sue Baker, (CEOs of Mind and Time to Change), and, especially, Mind's parliamentary team, Louise Rubin and Katie Howe. They opened up ways to use Becki's legacy, that we could never have foreseen.
Looking back, Becki's funeral was the turning point. The day, October 31st, was exceptionally sunny and we were surrounded by warmth, but the Halloween date didn't go unnoticed.
"A year earlier, Becki's #mentalpatient campaign on Twitter had stopped two major supermarket chains from selling offensive 'mental patient' Halloween costumes."
Becki never anticipated the wider effect it would have on attitudes to mental health stigma. Norman Lamb, then minister for Care and Support, even mentioned it in a speech on the same day as the funeral.
Louise and Katie came to give their support that day. After the service, the vicar spoke to them. He had previously been head of a local sixth-form for twenty years. Naturally, the death of young people particularly affected him, and his recent funerals had included more than one suicide.
His conversation led to fruitful links with our local branch, Mind BLMK. They helped him start a group of concerned individuals to support the mental health of young people in our secondary school catchment area.
Out of this came a discussion forum, culminating in our first meeting this April. 70 people attended, from a wide range of professional, voluntary and individual interests. It was a huge success, giving us the confidence to run a follow-up on Self-Harm this October. Mind BLMK continue to be actively involved and we are very grateful for their support.
Two unforgettable moments happened early in 2015. Mind enabled us to have a private meeting with Norman Lamb. This continued the link with Becki's political work. We raised issues about care for mental health patients and sufferers from ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition that Becki had had since early teenage. His appraisal of the system was enlightening and his response to our situation went beyond expectations.
Then came Becki's posthumous award as a Mental Health Hero, from Nick Clegg. It was privilege to meet the Heroes and other people concerned with mental health. We spent the whole evening on a cloud, chatting and laughing.
"For the previous six months we had almost forgotten how to smile. It was another milestone towards recovery."
What we also gained was confidence to knock on the door of government, which we've done several times since. The door isn't always answered, but they can't stop you knocking!
Then there was the incredible fundraising inspired by Becki, including a Santa Run for Mind by school friends; the gruelling Three Rings of Shap walk, also for Mind; 3x10k races for Manchester Mind; a memorable sky-dive and cello concert, by the same friend, (though not simultaneously...), and events for other charities. Thousands of pounds have been raised and there is more to come. In her memory, Birmingham University started the Becki Luscombe annual award, and a disabled rowing champion's boat now bears her name. Each of these has lifted us in ways we can't describe.
A new 'Normal'
At the time Becki died, I had been a primary teacher for ten years, and Sue was working in the NHS as a dietician. Sue eventually returned to work and, because of Becki, also supports various ME charities as their dietetic advisor.
Our son was studying in China when Becki died and, for the very best of reasons, only returned home shortly before the inquest in March. It's a lot to deal with, when the rest of your family has already had six months to adjust. The grief was overwhelming and he put his study on hold. For a while, we felt powerless to help. Thankfully, his studies are now back on track and he is starting the final year of his degree. For myself, I left teaching and am now training with Chums, a child bereavement charity in Bedfordshire.
"Things will never be the same, but we call it our 'new Normal'. As for Becki, we'll do whatever we can to continue her living memorial, her legacy."
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