There is no word for a parent who loses a child

On 20 March 2013 an unthinkable tragedy occurred, one that should never happened. If you are a parent, you are encouraged to read this for the safety of your own children, and for the safety of other children you may know.

Five years ago, Stephanie and John lost their son Jake after he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound forty-six days after being prescribed the antidepressant drug Prozac.

Their story remains one that should be told over and over and over so that parents can become aware of the dangers of psychiatric drugs and can thus make a fully informed choice to protect their children.

Jake was an intelligent 14-year-old young man with an IQ of 146. He had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and had been seeing a psychologist on a regular basis for over a year. There had been talk of a referral to an Occupational Therapist but instead, the psychologist referred Jake to a psychiatrist.

In hindsight, that referral should have sounded alarm bells. Unless one knows the dangers associated with psychiatry, its treatments and prescribed drugs, those alarm bells are muted. Stephanie couldn’t be at the appointment with the psychiatrist so John went with his son.

John recalls how the psychiatrist, who had never met Jake before, took approximately 10 minutes to prescribe the antidepressant Prozac. She didn’t inquire about Jake’s life, his interests, what may have been troubling him or his concerns about the mock examinations that were coming up. In fact, she knew very little about Jake. Despite this, she prescribed the drug Prozac.

Some alarm bells did go off. Like any caring father, John voiced his concerns about the prescription. He knew something wasn’t right, but the psychiatrist played it down, and ultimately John signed a consent form. Looking back, John says the psychiatrist didn’t tell him about any of the potential risks associated with Prozac or that Jake could suffer suicidal thoughts as a result of taking the drug. If a psychiatrist truly informed parents about these risks associated with antidepressants, it is unlikely parents would agree to their children taking the drug and it’s likely that prescription statistics would be very different.

On 20 March 2013, forty-six days after being prescribed Prozac, Stephanie was wondering why Jake hadn’t appeared for his supper. She shouted to him but there was no answer. She then experienced a feeling no mother should have to go through – she recalled Jake asking her earlier in the day if he could get the gun and practice holding it. Jake and his mum were members of the local gun club.

That was his last evening at home with his family before his funeral.

At the inquest into his death, Stephanie found the strength to speak about her beloved son. Her words resounded in favour of fully informed consent. “No mother in her right mind would let their child have a drug that can cause suicide and self-harm.

“Who in their right mind, if you are suffering from anxiety and dark thoughts, gives you stuff that has the same side effects? It’s the answer to everything nowadays, here’s your prescription, knock yourself out.”

At the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner returned an open verdict, where a coroner’s jury affirms the occurrence of a suspicious death but does not specify the cause. Stephanie said it was the verdict Jake deserved because in the eyes of his family, his death was drug-induced.

Stephanie and John want others to know their story, especially other parents in a similar position. They don’t want Jake’s death to be just another statistic, but a watershed where fully informed consent becomes law, enabling fully informed decisions to be made.

RIP Jake.


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