Felicity and Alex had a daughter, Alice. She had depression as a teenager, and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2004, at the age of 22, she took her own life. Felicity has found support from family, friends, her GP and Cruse.
Felicity and Alex had a beautiful daughter called Alice. She was a talented budding photographer. During her late teenage years she had depression, and then become psychotic. When she was aged 18 she tried to kill herself by jumping from a roof. She survived and recovered physically, but was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (which used to be called manic depression). With the help of various drugs she felt much better and in 2002 was accepted by a local art college. Alice did not like taking her medication and in 2003 her psychiatrist allowed her to stop taking all her drugs and he discharged her. At first Alice seemed fine without medication. She lost weight, and was highly productive. She passed out of college with distinction and was accepted by Glasgow School of Art to read fine art photography. She had a wonderful first year at Glasgow, made friends and did excellent work.
Then her depression returned. She went home and saw a psychiatrist and was put on medication. After only two weeks she was determined to return to Art School. On the way to the station she told her father that she was finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that she was going to have to live with her illness for the rest of her life. On November 21st 2004 Alice told her flat mate that she would not be going out to supper. She stayed in the flat and suffocated herself.
Felicity and Alex were woken in the night by a policeman, who told them what had happened. Then Alex had the difficult task of breaking the news to their two sons. Family and friends were completely stricken by the news of Alice’s death. The family flew to Glasgow to meet her friends and teachers. They also went to see Alice’s body. Felicity said she looked incredibly peaceful. They did not attend the inquest.
Felicity and Alex arranged a beautiful funeral. Over 400 people came to the funeral, and there were many tributes to Alice, both during the funeral and afterwards during the wake. She was buried in the graveyard.
Felicity and Alex have always consulted each other and their sons about what was right for Alice and what was not. Family solidarity has been important for them all. For example, they all decided to fill the house with candles during the first Christmas after Alice’s death, and they all played a part in choosing and designing a head stone for Alice’s grave.
Felicity felt quite depressed after that first Christmas. Arranging the funeral and then Christmas had kept her busy but then she felt really low, did not want to get out of bed and found it hard to concentrate at work. She consulted her GP, who suggested she should see a bereavement counsellor from Cruse Bereavement Care (Cruse). Felicity has found it a great help to talk to someone from this organisation. She saw the counsellor for many months.
Felicity feels she is coping better now [almost three years after her daughter’s suicide, though has been back to her GP and is still taking a low dose of Prozac. Although she thinks about Alice every day she feels she has moved on. Last February she visited her son in China and said that for the first time in two and a half years she felt genuinely happy. This was partly because she could see that her son had also moved on and was doing well.
Felicity has found it helpful to write about Alice and to raise awareness of bipolar disorder. Alex and Felicity have also taken comfort in setting up a prize in Alice’s memory, The Alice Duncan Travel Prize. Each year a student who has just graduated receives money to enable him or her to travel and then come back and have an exhibition.
Felicity and Alex have also published a book of Alice’s photographs. The book is called Alice Duncan:Photographs, and is published by White Bridge Press. Felicity and Alex said that it was incredibly important that they were able to publish this beautiful book in memory of Alice.
Felicity also wrote an article about Alicethat was published in the Guardian on Saturday April 22nd 2006. The article is called Once we had a daughter.
Felicity was interviewed in July 2007.
See also ourinterview with Felicity’s husband, Alex.