Father of Jess Blake urges troubled teenagers to 'not suffer in silence'
THE grieving father of a teenager discovered dead in woods has urged other young people not to suffer in silence.
Jess Blake, 14, had a history of self-harming and made a suicide pact with a friend days before she disappeared from her home in Beverley.
While her friend changed her mind, Jess's body was discovered in a tree in woods off Chester Avenue.
Now, her father Dave has urged other young people struggling with inner turmoil to seek help.
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He said: "I would like to say to anyone who reads about Jess and perhaps sees themselves, you are not alone, there is always someone to talk to.
"Seek help, don't suffer in silence."
Mr Blake also appealed to teenagers to call in outside help and raise the alarm if they think their friend is plagued by thoughts of suicide.
He said: "If you have a friend like Jess, don't think 'It's only Jess being Jess', because she might mean it, even if you know half the things she says aren't true. You're not being a bad friend by speaking to someone. You're being the best friend she needs."
Jess had been referred to mental health professionals after she began to self-harm last year, cutting her neck and her arms.
However, they decided she was no longer a risk to herself in February.
Just one month later, a fire officer raised concerns for her safety and well-being after she set fire to her bedroom. However, no further action was taken.
Jess and the friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had talked about suicide before.
They made a pact to jump off the Humber Bridge together on Thursday, August 30, but the friend decided not to go through with it.
Shortly before she disappeared from her home on the Swinemoor Estate, Jess swapped a series of increasingly anguished text messages with the friend, saying: "I hate life".
Their conversation culminated in a phone call with Jess telling the friend she loved her.
She said she was going to take her own life and ended the call. It was the last call she ever made.
In a statement to the police, the friend said: "I thought it was just a thought she had.
"We discussed it if I was really annoyed about something. I never really believed it was going to happen.
"I always thought Jess felt the same as me, that we were never really going to do it."
The friend's father contacted Jess's parents and the police after the phone call, sparking a two-day hunt which saw taxi drivers and neighbours combing the East Riding countryside.
A police helicopter, dog unit and underwater team joined the hunt.
The girl's body was finally found by Samantha Long as she searched with friends as word spread of Jess's disappearance.
Samantha told an inquest in Hull: "Something took me through this hedge.
"I went down a 6ft ditch, back up the other side and couldn't find her.
"As I looked up, she was in the tree."
It was a tragic end to the life of a teenager who first came to the notice of social workers in October last year.
Jess had accused her dad of hitting her and sent a threatening text to a friend, pretending it was from him.
Police and social services investigated but discovered the claims were completely untrue.
Soon afterwards, Jess began to self-harm, cutting her forearms and neck with a razor blade.
She made up another story about being raped as she walked back from a Beverley Town Army Cadets meeting.
The teenager had attempted to hang herself once before at a cadet camp but the rope she used was not strong enough.
Beverley High School's safeguarding team were aware of Jess's problems and even let her switch forms.
Detective Constable Rebecca James investigated the circumstances around Jess's death but discovered no evidence of serious bullying.
She said: "There was some very minor name-calling and not all of it was directed at Jess."
On November 23 last year, Jess was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
Community nurse Claire Baldwin said: "There had been some problems with her friendship group.
"Jess's mum had some physical health problems and Jess had disclosed being angry about having to do jobs around the house."
Meetings continued until February 29, when Jess and her mum both felt things had improved and she was discharged.
Ms Baldwin said: "She stated things were well at both home and school. She said she didn't feel she needed to come and see me any more."
However, on March 9, the fire service was called to Jess's home in Nolloth Crescent after she set fire to waste paper in her room and a curtain caught alight.
Shaun Harrison, a crew manager at Beverley fire station, met Jess when his officers put out the blaze.
He said: "Jess was upset and crying. She also seemed to be a little in shock."
He noticed a mark on her wrist as he talked to Jess.
He said: "It may have been from a bracelet or a watch or it may have been something more sinister."
The firefighter was so concerned by what he saw that, for the first time in his career, he decided to warn the authorities.
Mr Harrison filled in a CP1 form, an internal document used to highlight worries about vulnerable children.
It was passed to the fire service's safeguarding officer, who is responsible for then contacting health and social services.
Mr Harrison's form was not acted on and, months later, Jess was dead.
East Riding Safeguarding Children has now launched a Serious Case Review to see if any lessons can be learned.
At the inquest yesterday into Jess's death, coroner Geoffrey Saul said her death may have been a cry for help gone wrong.
Recording a narrative verdict, he said: "She died from hanging at her own hand but the question of intent remains uncertain."