Danny Willgoss

Danny was 25 when he died, his family believe by suicide, on Fathers’ Day in June 2018. Danny was autistic and we know that autistic people, without a learning disability, are nine times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. For this group of people suicide is the second leading cause of death in adults, after heart disease (Autistica, 2016).

I asked Danny’s mum, Sue, to tell me about him. He was born in October 1992, a rainbow baby:

“Daniel. My young man. He was my third pregnancy, I lost a baby the year before I had Daniel. First I had Matthew, then Robert, and Daniel was born a year less a day that Robert died.

When you have a baby after you’ve lost a baby, there’s a special kind of attachment there. Don’t get me wrong, all your children are special but that’s just different”.

After Daniel was born, Sue, and her husband, Terry, who now run a pub in Lowestoft, had two further sons, Jamie and Elliott. They sound like a close knit family, who have battled for support throughout their lives.

Sue describes how it was apparent early on that Danny had some special needs, in fact all four of their children had special educational needs while at school, and she was a founder member of the parent carer forum in Suffolk.

“Daniel was hard work, no doubt about it, he struggled to go to school. He was always quite an anxious child. He didn’t attend full time until he was in Year 3, and then it all started to go wrong. He got a statement of special educational needs, but he was treated appallingly by the local authority”.

Danny came under the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services from when he was 3 years of age, and he received an autism diagnosis just before his 9th birthday. Sue recounts how patchy educational provision was, and how much Danny missed out on:

“Daniel was out of education, he attended part time at best, then he didn’t attend school at all from Year 6. There was no provision or support provided by the local authority for months and months. Daniel was much more settled, and less anxious, being at home but he didn’t have any provision.

That’s not true, he had a private tutor provided for 5 hours a week by the local authority… he was excellent, Daniel liked him… what happened, they removed the home tutor because they said he was becoming too familiar with the family”.

Danny was left out of school for long periods of time and received most of his education online.

“Daniel learnt by listening and watching, he would watch YouTube channels and the Discovery Channel. He was self taught at many things”.

Danny thoroughly enjoyed playing rugby, he played for Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, and then for Norwich before breaking his collar bone for the third time forced him to stop. He took up Mixed Martial Arts and went to boxing training, not to box, but to get fit. Fitness and being active was always important to Danny.

You can read more in the linked blog post below

Family Statement

“Daniel was laid on the sofa and he looked peaceful, I thought he was asleep but he wasn’t. I can’t describe the feeling of sadness and despair in that moment.I sat with him until he was taken away. I held his hand and promised him we would make change”

Mrs Willgoss: “Nothing can bring Daniel back but lessons must truly be learned. Changes must take place as he had so much to give.”

You can check out Lift Loud for Danny, a project in Danny’s memory here.