‘It was so unexpected’: Mum pays tribute to daughter, 20, who took her own life after battling mental health issues during lockdown

Leonie Baigan had sought help for mental health issues and had been struggling during the pandemic

A mum has paid tribute to her 20 year-old daughter who took her own life after battling with mental health issues during the pandemic.

Leonie Baigan took her own life last month, just two days before a gender reveal party to celebrate her mum’s pregnancy.

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‘It was so unexpected’

Leonie Baigan had struggled with her mental health during the pandemic (Photo: SWNS)

Mum-of-one Stacey Baigan, 40, said her daughter had sought help for mental health and had been signed off from her job at the Bank of Scotland due to health struggles, but she had no idea she was suicidal.

Leonie, from Edinburgh, had spoken to her doctor about her mental health, but had not indicated she was contemplating taking her own life.

The 20-year-old took her life on 4 March and was laid to rest earlier this week on 14 April.

Stacey, who is six months pregnant, said that mental health had become another pandemic in the course of lockdowns, and explained the past year has left a lot of young people feeling isolated.

Leonie had a good job with career progression, a doting boyfriend and good friends, as well as a supportive family.

Her mum has now warned that the tragedy shows mental health needs to be taken seriously.

She said: “I've been planning a funeral when I should have been planning a 21st birthday.

"It was just so unexpected, we had been trying to get help for her mental health but never in a million years did I think this was going to happen.

"We were trying to get her help for about two or three years, in December she started to speak about it more saying 'I can't explain this feeling in my head, I just want peace'."

Need for face-to-face support

Ms Baigan called NHS 24 to seek help for her daughter on 23 December last year, and on Christmas Eve Leonie was prescribed antidepressants, although she was not keen to take them.

In February, she was signed off work and given access to five private counselling sessions on the phone, but she was so shy that she struggled to phone for a taxi or order a takeaway herself.

As she was extremely shy, her mum believes she needed face-to-face support.

She said: “In the pandemic everything is done by phone, Leonie was so socially introverted she couldn't phone a taxi.

"She used to get her nails done at the same salon for about six years but she couldn't phone to make an appointment.

"For someone to speak to a complete stranger about their mental health on the phone, it is quite sensitive and personal."

An appointment was offered by the NHS on 22 March but it was via phone, and Ms Baigan said it would have been too hard for Leonie to open up unless it was in person.

She said: "I know we're in a pandemic but why can't it be in a room two metres apart, you can get a filling done but there isn't enough face to face support for people in crisis."

On the day she died, Leonie had a 'down day' but Ms Baigan said there was nothing unusual about it. She had tried to encourage her to buy some paint to redecorate the kitchen cupboards of the flat she was renting in Edinburgh, and to buy a notebook to record her feelings.

She said: "She had best friends, she had a boyfriend, she had a good job with a great career, she wanted to do a mortgage advisor qualification.

"She was making plans, I'm six months pregnant and Leonie was going to pop the balloon at a gender reveal party.

"She was so excited, she was more excited than us, she was planning to pick up cupcakes. It didn't seem to me like it was planned.

"That day, she was having a down day but it wasn't any different from other down days. She was talking about what she was going to wear that Saturday."

‘It is devastating’

In an effort to improve her mental health, Leonie had come off social media for a month, increased her fitness levels by going for walks and cycling, and invested in self-help books, including writing a diary.

Ms Baigan never asked her daughter if she was suicidal, but explained that they did discuss the tragic TV presenter Caroline Flack, who took her own life last year, and was told the world would not be a better place without her.

Leonie’s mum said: “She had a great future, she was in a relationship with a boyfriend who idolised her, she had friends, she did have all that support.

"At the start I put it down to teenagers but it was more than that. She had said to me 'how am I going to make friends, I'm too shy'.

"My thinking was we just needed to get this help and I hoped the antidepressants would help.

"She was so gentle and so generous to people - she was the biggest achievement in my whole life, it is devastating."

Ms Baigan plans to complete an Open University degree in Criminology and Psychology and use her experiences to help others.

She is also planning to start a charity called Leonie's Legacy to help other young people facing mental health struggles.

If you would like to donate to the charity, visit Leonie’s GoFundMe page.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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