'We have hope' say parents of Bowes teen George Rabbet-Smith in coma after suicide attempt

Katie Cole sits down with George Rabbett-Smith's parents to find out how they are trying to make a difference after a 'devastating' eight months

This article contains details about suicide that some people might find triggering

A teenager from County Durham remains in a coma eight months after trying to take his own life.

George Rabbett-Smith, 18, made the attempt on his life at his home in Bowes, near Barnard Castle, on 4 June 2023.

The Darlington College student's parents said he had been struggling with his mental health following the death of two close friends.

Recalling the moment she found her son, George's mum Hilary Rabbett said: “That day is imprinted on my mind. I can't forget thinking that we couldn't bring him back.

"I can't forget giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the horrific feeling of trying to do that and thinking that it was pointless.

“We weren't there to catch him when he fell, but we're never going to leave his side again and we're never going to allow within our capabilities that to be the case for anybody else.”

The 18-year-old, who hit his milestone birthday in hospital, is described by his family as personable, loving, and sporty.

George Rabbet-Smith turned 18 in hospital. Credit: Family handout

He left the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough this week and is now at a rehab hospital in Newcastle.

While his family say progress is slow, they do have hope they will get some of the old George back and hope to have him back home by Christmas.

George’s father David Smith said: “It’s really hard seeing him lying in a hospital bed and changes are very, very small but on the other hand we do have hope.

"He is making efforts to communicate and he is aware. We know what a wonderful thing the brain is and in lots of ways what a terrible thing the brain is that put him there in the first place but we hope all the time because what else is there.

“We love our our son and we are just wishing him to get better.”

A family member holds George Rabbett-Smith's hand at his hospital bedside. Credit: Family handout

After a "devastating" eight months, Mrs Rabbett and her family have been driven to do something positive.

As part of an effort to break the taboo of the subject of suicide, they have set up a charity and are speaking out this Children's Mental Health Week.

I'm George's Mate has been set up by George's mother, his father David Smith and George's sisters and aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and to provide suicide prevention courses in schools and colleges.

George’s school and college friends are supporting the charity after having helped inspire its inception during a visit to see him in hospital.

“Initially when his friends started coming it was clear to us that we can't keep burying the idea of suicide and pretending it doesn't happen," said Mr Smith.

"People are struggling because it's something that often we think is too difficult to deal with, but actually George’s friends dealt with it admirably and wanted to be involved, and it was really something that pushed us on to do something for young people."

David Smith and Hilary Rabbett hope to break the taboo around the subject of suicide. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Mr Smith is a teacher and said he had not realised the extent to which George was struggling with his mental health.

He continued: "I hadn't fully grasped how much George was struggling and partly I think it’s a cultural thing because we tend to close our minds to things that are difficult, things like suicide, but the fact that all of his friends came in and they were determined to help him to do something, and they helped us so much that we think it's so important to do something to help them and all young people who might be struggling in the way that George has."

I'm George's Mate was officially launched in the House of Lords in November 2023 and strives to create free educational materials for schools to train young people in suicide prevention.

George’s family also want to set up a network of peer supporters within schools.

They are also supporting people struggling with their mental health, organising walks and talks for people of all ages, and are planning a music festival in June to raise funds for the charity.

Several of George’s friends are involved in running the charity including Will Brown who met George at secondary school.

George Rabbett-Smith is said to be making slow progress in hospital. Credit: Family handout

Mr Brown said: “It's still difficult to deal with sometimes when you sit and think about it, but I just hope that no one else gets in the situation because it doesn't just affect them personally it affects the family and friends and it just changes a lot of life.

“I don’t think throughout my whole time in school I ever had a lesson on mental health suicide awareness so I think it's a very good idea, especially with the rate of suicide in young people.”

George was a student at Darlington College and met friend Adiy Ahmed there.

Mr Ahmed is now on the charity committee and said they want to break down the stigma of suicide and encourage young people to talk about their mental health.

He said: “The whole aim of the charity is to talk about young people's mental health so no one's ever in the same position as George was.

"We hope no one feels alone and has to fight the struggles and battles on their own. We are all in this together.”

Adiy Ahmed with George Rabbett-Smith who met at Darlington College. Credit: Adiy Ahmed

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