I Thought It Was Too Quiet ... I Was Right; Coralie Burr Recalls the Moment When Son Joel, 15, Tried to Take His Own Life after Attention Deficit Disorder Became Too Much for Him to Bear

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

I Thought It Was Too Quiet ... I Was Right; Coralie Burr Recalls the Moment When Son Joel, 15, Tried to Take His Own Life after Attention Deficit Disorder Became Too Much for Him to Bear


Byline: ANNIE BROWN

IT WAS the silence from her son's bedroom that disturbed Coralie Burr as she sat watching television. Joel, 14, a sufferer of Attention Deficit Disorder was, as a rule, loud, destructive and hyperactive. He was rarely quiet.

"I had this gut instinct that something was wrong," said Coralie.

"Joel was never peaceful, there was always a television on or music blaring.

"Even in his sleep, he shouted and sleepwalked."

She rushed in to his bedroom and Joel's body slumped to the floor, a dressing gown cord lay at his side which he had used to hang himself.

"His face was blue," said Coralie.

"He had flung the dressing gown cord over the door and, when I opened it, he fell. I felt numb when I saw him lying there. I thought he was dead. I couldn't believe it."

Coralie ran to call an ambulance as a family friend tried to resuscitate Joel and by the time the paramedics arrived the teenager was at least breathing.

"I was in a state of shock and I didn't know what to do. I just didn't want him to die," said Coralie.

Joel survived the suicide attempt but, months on, he has been left brain damaged.

Sitting strapped to a wheelchair in the family home in Dundee, his mother feeds him custard from a spoon.

Now 15, Joel is symbol of a disorder that many medics believe is a genetic illness. Others simply believe that sufferers are displaying brattish behaviour.

Whatever the explanation for the condition, Joel has shown it can kill. Coralie said: "I think that there are a lot of children and adults out there who have taken their own lives because of this disorder. But so many times, there is another explanation found for a suicide and the truth stays hidden."

ADD has always been a dominating feature in Coralie's life. She had it as a child and her five sons, including Joel, had it too.

Her other children are now adults, but family life was once a hellish battleground in which meal and bed times were bedlam and school suspensions were a regular occurrence.

She explained: "I tried everything, the shouting, talking, ignoring them, none of it worked."

Even in the womb, Joel was hyperactive. Coralie recalled: "He kicked constantly and was always restless. As a baby, he was angry, crying all the time, refusing to settle and he startled easily."

At seven months old, he smashed his way out of his cot and was found dangling by his neck.

By the time he was six, he had cut off all his hair and his mother woke up just in time to catch him lobbing off hers with a pair of scissors.

He had no concentration, so it was virtally impossible to relate to him.

Coralie said: "I was literally dragging him to school. He went haywire in class. He couldn't even sit down for five minutes. He would stick his foot out when other children went by, or poke them with pencils.

"I always had to be on call and let the teachers know where I was going."

He was an intelligent boy with an IQ of 126 according to psychologists.

At the age of nine, he had been thrown out of school 11 times.

Swearing a lot, putting his hands in the school fish tank and threatening to jump off the school balcony were typical of his behaviour. Coralie got past the stage of being embarrassed by his behaviour, like the time when she was on a train journey with Joel and he pulled the communication chord.

There was of course, the other side to Joel. He had the face of an angel and could be utterly adorable.

Coralie said: "He could be really cuddly and affectionate and he had a wonderful sense of humour. He was a great practical joker."

Coralie found out about ADD from a parent support group and became convinced that Joel was a classic case. …

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I Thought It Was Too Quiet ... I Was Right; Coralie Burr Recalls the Moment When Son Joel, 15, Tried to Take His Own Life after Attention Deficit Disorder Became Too Much for Him to Bear
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