“We opened Jake’s bedroom door, and I’ll always remember that my son had no socks on his feet. There was a porcelain look to them. And then I saw the rifle that we kept in our home lying on top of him.”
Stephanie McGill-Lynch says she will “never, ever be able to move on from that day” – March 19, 2013 – when she and husband John found their son Jake dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the floor of his bedroom.
She believes Jake’s death was “preventable from start to finish” and he took his own life because of Prozac.
Jake was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, in 2012. He was intermittently seeing a psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) but Stephanie, from Clondalkin, Dublin, said that overall Jake was a happy child.
His anxiety increased ahead of his Junior Cert mock exams and the psychologist at CAMHS referred Jake to a consultant psychiatrist.
On January 31, 2013, John took Jake to the appointment with the psychiatrist where Jake was prescribed the anti-depressant Prozac.
“I have no idea why my child was prescribed medication at that one meeting. Jake had generalised anxiety like most kids who were about to sit big exams, but he was not depressed and did not need medication.
“There is so much pressure on the mental health services there isn’t enough time or resources to spend properly talking with these kids that are suffering,” said Stephanie.
In an email written 24 hours before his death, Jake said he was feeling “drugged” and described how he had “panicked to the point of tears before some pretty big exams”.
An inquest into his death recorded an open verdict.
Stephanie said the first thing she did when she came home from Tallaght Hospital after Jake’s death was to “throw the bottle of Prozac against the wall”.
“That [Prozac] was the only thing that had changed in my son’s life. I didn’t have a depressed, suicidal child. He doesn’t deserve to be dead at 14 for his Junior Cert or because he had Asperger’s.”
Stephanie says her family are “not trying to frighten people” but “we believe that medication should be the last resort, not the first one”.
“If your child is stressed about exams or breaking up from a relationship – that’s not depression. That’s life.
“We can talk about mental health and we can raise awareness, but we need to have supports in place too. There’s no point in having boards of people sitting around a table or celebrities discussing teenage mental health when they’re not backing it up with actual supports. Every school should have a psychologist. I don’t want any other child to suffer like Jake did or how our family is suffering now.”
In a statement the HSE said it cannot comment on individual cases. But it said fluoxetine (Prozac) is prescribed for under-18s “for a number of clinical conditions when indicated, taking into account the severity of the presenting problem and response to other psychological interventions”.