Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 15:49 UK

'Bully made me suicidal'

Young girl
The bullying victim has since moved to a new school

Natasha, who is mixed race, was victimised by a bully who has since become the first schoolboy to be convicted of racial harassment.

In her first broadcast interview, Natasha, 14, told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire show how the bullying made her suicidal.

Natasha was the only mixed-race student at a school of over 1,000 pupils.

When two boys began taunting Natasha with racist insults, her mother, Karen, became involved and the school stepped in.

But one of the boys continued to bully Natasha at school for the next seven months.

"He would call me things like a golliwog, the 'n' word, a coon," Natasha said.

She would pretend she hadn't heard the taunts, and her friends didn't say anything, because, Natasha thinks, "they didn't want the boy to start picking on them".

Natasha didn't feel there were any teachers at the school in whom she could confide, and she was reluctant to involve her mother again - particularly after the school advised against it, Karen said.

"I knew that if I spoke to her (my mother)," Natasha told Victoria Derbyshire, "she would go into the school, and I didn't want the situation to get worse."

Suicide attempt

Natasha became depressed and run-down, and she started comfort eating and behaving erratically - cutting her hair "without even realising it".

FROM BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Natasha started to spend a lot of time in her room on her own, but Karen wrote it off as typical teenage behaviour, unaware that her daughter was also falling behind at school.

"She hid it very, very well ... she put on a very, very good front."

But the bullying became too much for Natasha, who said she tried to commit suicide in January this year.

"I just wanted to die, because everything got too much for me, and I knew that if I told someone the problem would get worse, and I thought that would be the easy way out."

She wrote several notes thanking her family for their love and support.

"She actually told us that she didn't want anybody to wear black and it shouldn't be a sad funeral," Karen said.

"She didn't want people to be sad, because before all this happened, she was a happy-go-lucky person, and that's how she wanted people to remember her."

Natasha described how she felt the night she tried to kill herself: "I was quite distressed and panicky.

"I went into the kitchen and got some tablets, and just went into my room and took them all at once, and then hoping that I wouldn't get up in the morning."

Psychiatric hospital

But she was able to go to school the next day, although she says she felt extremely tired.

Karen says she only realised what had happened when she found a suicide note under her daughter's pillow in the morning.

"It was a bit of a coincidence, really, because as I'd found the note and I was reading it, the school phoned me to say, 'Come and pick up Natasha - she's very poorly.'"

"I was distraught, because obviously I didn't have a clue as to what was going on," Karen added.

I would like to see him go on some sort of training to help him understand and just realise what he's actually doing to other human beings, because of the colour of their skin
Natasha's mother, Karen

"Basically in the letter, it just said that she couldn't cope anymore."

At home, she confronted Natasha.

"I said, 'Do you want to die?' and it was like she had a nervous breakdown on me and just went to pieces."

Karen asked her daughter what she had taken, and on a GP's advice, took her daughter to hospital.

Natasha "slowly went downhill" and was bordering bi-polar, according to Karen, and the girl was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for over six weeks.

Conviction

But Karen told BBC Radio 5 live that the school refused to believe the bullying had caused Natasha's problems until they had interviewed fellow pupils.

The boy was then excluded from school for five days, later becoming the first schoolboy to be convicted of racial harassment.

Natasha said she was "very happy" about this, and Karen added that she felt that her daughter had "got justice".

The boy, now 15, faces a maximum two-year detention and training order, including 12 months in a young offenders' institute.

Natasha has since moved to a new school, and Karen said she had already noticed "a big change" in her daughter.

Karen said the boy's parents had refused to come into the school to talk about "a way forward" for their son, and she believes that his behaviour was influenced by his home environment.

"I would like to see him go on some sort of training to help him understand and just realise what he's actually doing to other human beings, because of the colour of their skin," Karen said.

"They're all human at the end of the day, and if he can go on some sort of training course to make him understand this, that would be enough for me."

The schoolboy's solicitor argued that a criminal prosecution was inappropriate, saying: "I know this goes beyond normal bullying, but mistakes that might have been down to youthful ignorance will now stick with him for years."

But Karen feels differently: "I don't think it's a case of youthful ignorance because it went on for so long.

"It was previously a joke that has got out of control, and he could see what he was doing to Natasha, and I feel very sorry for the boy actually."

Find out more about BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire show or read the blog at the programme website.



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