The heartbroken mother of a teenage boy who took his own life aged 14 has revealed how her once ‘happy, cheeky’ boy was failed by the system.
Requel ‘Rocky’ Cavanagh, from Wagga Wagga in the New South Wales Riverina region, died on May 17.
He was 14-years-old, loved motorbikes and playing by the river. And he is one of three children in the area believed to have taken their own lives in the past fortnight.
In a powerful interview with Daily Mail Australia, Rocky’s mother Bianca Lyons told how he saw himself as the man of the house and protector of his four sisters.
‘Rocky has touched everyone that he has come across. He was protective. He loved his family. Family and culture was who he was.’
Now, Ms Lyons said: ‘It feels like we are living in hell, waking up and not seeing or hearing him.
‘We feel empty. We don’t feel whole. We have lost a piece of ourselves. We have to live for the rest of our lives what happened on Monday the 17th.’
‘We have lost a piece of ourselves’: Raquel ‘Rocky’ Cavanagh, 14, took his own life on May 14 – leaving behind his four sisters and grieving mother Bianca Lyons – who says she loved every inch of his soul
Circle of tragedy: Wagga Wagga school student Lauren Rafferty took her own life on May 9. On right is Rocky Cavanagh, from the same area, who died on May 14
Miss Rafferty’s tragic death is just one of three recent instances of a teenager appearing to take their own life in the largely agricultural area by the Murray River
Suicide in the bush is ‘the epidemic that nobody talks about’, said MP Helen Dalton, representative of the local seat of Murray.
‘The Murrumbidgee region has a suicide rate almost three times that of Sydney,’ she said. ‘But we have far fewer mental health services.’
Some 20 years ago the suicide rate was about the same as the major city but now it is much worse, at 20.9 per 100,000 people to Sydney’s 7.8.
The death toll keeps rising. A 17-year-old girl – a star Year 12 pupil at her school – was found dead in nearby Griffith on Sunday.
And in a tragic twist that speaks to the scale of the troubles faced by young Australians, Rocky was an acquaintance of Lauren Rafferty, 12.
She died on May 9, Mother’s Day. Miss Rafferty, also from Wagga Wagga, was remembered as ‘sweet, strong and kind’ by her mother Rachelle this week.
‘(Rocky) said he knew her,’ Ms Lyons said. ‘He was really sad.’
But her death doesn’t appear to be linked to Rocky’s situation.
Ms Lyons said Rocky had suffered mental health problems relating to being placed in the care of Family and Community Services as a child, and fearing he could be returned.
When he was restored to his mother’s custody in 2016, Ms Lyons said ‘all the funding and services ceased.’
Her heartbroken mother Rachelle told Daily Mail Australia that numerous attempts were made to help Lauren (pictured) but the family struggled to find the support they desperately needed
Rocky, who suffered suicidal thoughts, could no longer attend FACS support groups which his mother believed had helped him.
A Department of Communities and Justice spokeswoman said the agency was ‘deeply saddened’ to hear of the child’s death, but declined to comment on an individual cases.
Meanwhile, Ms Lyons said there was limited mental health support services catering to the needs of an Aboriginal boy in Wagga Wagga.
‘Mental health services are overloaded – there is a waiting list,’ she said.
The family of Lauren Rafferty had similar trouble navigating the mental health system.
‘Lauren suffered the same level of bullying that any girl of her age does- which is still unacceptable,’ her mother said.
The Rafferty family ‘thought we were doing everything right by our children, and tried daily to do our best.’
‘Since Lauren’s death on Mother’s Day, and subsequent thorough investigation, we now know how far the cumulative effect of systematic failure contributed,’ her mother told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Numerous attempts over the last two years were made to help Lauren.
Lauren is pictured visiting the elderly at Christmas time in 2020 (left) and strawberry picking with her brother (right)
‘We had difficulty navigating and accessing mental health support for children, especially in regional areas.’
Ms Rafferty said her daughter’s death was an example of how Australians should endeavour to be kinder to one another in an ‘increasingly cruel and relentless’ world.
Rocky’s grandmother Laura Lyons said Australia needs to focus more on telling young people how to access help, including via social media, which they are ‘all on’.
‘That is something that we feel strongly about that needs to change, if we can prevent anyone else from going through this.
‘What happened should not have happened. This is not just our problem – this is society’s problem.’
Rocky Cavanagh will be laid to rest next week. Friends are raising funds to support the family via GoFundMe.
If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health support you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636