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Bullies bombarded Megan Evans with abusive messages on her phone through the night with the 14-year-old replying “OK” to a final heartbreaking exchange in which she was told to go hang herself. Megan was found dead at her home after battling against cyberbullies in secret, not telling her parents about her ordeal.
Her mum Nicola Harteveld said that she believes that the last message tipped the scales.
She told WalesOnline that she looks back now knowing “one million percent” that she would do things differently after admitting she did not see the signs that her “beautiful, kind and confident” Megan was struggling.
Nicola said: “I can see things blindingly obvious now that I didn’t have a clue [about] back then.
“I was completely naive about it, that I always thought that somebody with a mental health problem – you could visibly see it.
Megan Evans died in February 2017
Megan’s mum Nicola Harteveld
“If your kids were struggling, they’d be in their room, wearing black, listening to dark music- that was my stupid perception of it back then.
“My bright, bubbly Meg, if she came to me and said she had an issue, I’d say: ‘Meg get a grip, don’t be so daft, just deal with it’.
“That’s what I would’ve probably said and I can openly say that, which is why I want to speak out. I was so wrong. Mental health does not look like how I thought it did.”
Days after Megan’s funeral, Nicola moved Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby to tears with an appearance on ITV’s This Morning which was motivated by a need to share her message with fellow parents.
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Megan was 14 when she died
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Nicola said: “When I went on This Morning – I don’t remember much about that at all – I just wanted people to realise this was something we all needed to be mindful of, because I didn’t have a clue.
“Hand on heart, I probably wouldn’t have taken her seriously because I didn’t know. She was lively. She was the life and soul of a party – the life and soul of the house. I did not see a thing.
“I won’t forgive myself for the rest of my life for it.”
Since Megan’s death on February 7, 2017, Nicola has embarked on a psychology degree with the University of Essex.
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Nicola says she now can see the signs: “She was sleeping a lot in the day because she was being kept awake at night by these messages, but I didn’t see that then.
“The secrecy with her phone – she would literally not let her phone from her hands and I would think that was a bit weird now, but then – not a clue.”
The mum of seven added that she felt proud her children, who are aged between 10 and 20, had come out the other side of losing their sister.
Megan’s birthdays are marked every year with her face beaming from photos in the family home in Pembrokeshire.
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were moved to tears by Megan’s story on ITV’s This Morning
However, Nicola said she cannot bear to watch videos of her daughter.
She added: “Megan’s birthday is in November so November is horrible. I hate Christmas for obvious reason and then January because I know it’s going to be the anniversary. It’s a terrible, terrible month. You just get over Christmas and then you’ve got that gut-wrenching thing – you know it’s coming.
“Those four months are awful.”
One thing helping her through those tough weeks is Step into January which is a campaign to get active during the month in an effort to boost physical and mental health.
By taking part in the 10,000 steps a day challenge, Nicola helps raise funds for mental health charity the Megans Starr foundation, which she set up in the wake of her daughter’s death.
The foundation offers support to parents, youngsters and families struggling with mental health.
It offers free, professional counselling sessions for vulnerable young people around Pembrokeshire.
Nicola observed: “During the pandemic we found there was a breakdown because parents didn’t understand why their kids were in their rooms all the time.
“But they don’t understand that these kids are so social these days and when they’re locked in their rooms and not in school, they’re going to be on their phones, because that’s their link to the outside world.
“Some young people are experiencing mental health issues for the first time and many others who had previously existing conditions, are having to cope with exacerbated feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and helplessness.
“We are there to provide peer support and professional counselling to help cope with these feelings.”
The support also acts as comfort to Nicola who is doing something positive in Megan’s memory.
She said: “She’d be 19 now and I think all the time what would she be doing.
“I see her friends and what they’re doing. I know Meg would have had a job, gone to college. She was really independent. She was focused. She was going to be a career woman.”
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected] or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
Additional reporting by Laura Clements