On World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10 October), a father whose daughter disappeared in September has described how it felt waiting for news – and the relief when she was found safe and well by a coastguard rescue team.
In a message to HM Coastguard, he has praised all the emergency services for their efforts to locate her during what felt like a long eight hours.
Offering hope to other families, he wrote: “While this event was undeniably a parent's worst nightmare, it also revealed a complex tapestry of community support and emotional resilience. Our divided family united, even if temporarily, in concern and action.
“The community, often distant in happier times, showed it could coalesce in a crisis, revealing not just the fissures but also the bridges that can be built in times of need.”
When his daughter went missing, a call to the police triggered the initial search by officers.
She had last been seen at her home inland at around 2.30pm that afternoon. But now her phone seemed to be switched off and her social media raised troubling questions. The police requested support from HM Coastguard because of worry she might have gone down to the sea. Two coastguard teams were sent to search.
Her dad described how friends and family took to social media to spread the word, formed WhatsApp groups to share news, contacted her school, and informed community leaders.
He added: "Each tick of the clock seemed to mock my helplessness as I jumped into action, providing the police with everything they needed and reaching out to friends, family, and the wider community. When all my resources were exhausted, I had no option but to sit and wait.”
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the good news came that she was found– safe and well at a beach café.
From there she was passed into the care of the police and taken home to be reunited with family to their “immeasurable” relief.
Reflecting on the experience, her dad offered advice to anyone facing the same situation:
Contact the police and relevant agencies immediately; time is your most valuable resource.
Find that balance between hope and reality; maintaining a clear head is key.
Use every communication channel available but take care to protect the vulnerable.
Listen to the experts; they are using tried and tested mechanisms.
When things go quiet, don't worry; communication lulls are normal.
He added: “In sharing this account and the lessons gleaned from it, my hope is that it serves as a guidepost for parents facing similar trials.
“While each situation is uniquely painful, the shared humanity that surfaces in these crises offers a flicker of light in the darkest of times.”
The advice from HM Coastguard when a loved one goes missing is to dial 999, contact the emergency services and provide as much information as possible to assist the search.
If you see an emergency by the coast, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
If you have concerns about the mental health of yourself, family or friends, you can find sources of help from the NHS, charities and more here.
Names and locations have been removed to protect the identity of the girl and her family.