A bright 21-year-old killed herself after more than 200 unsuccessful job applications.
Vicky Harrison had dreamed of a career as a teacher or a television producer, but gave up hope for the future, her family said yesterday.
A day after her latest rejection, and on the eve of her fortnightly trip to sign on, she wrote heartbreaking notes to her parents and boyfriend saying ‘I don’t want to be me any more’ and took a huge drug overdose.
Her death last month tragically highlights the human cost of the highest level of joblessness since the mid-1990s. Rising youth unemployment has led to warnings about a ‘lost generation’.
Miss Harrison’s devastated parents called yesterday for more help for young jobseekers, telling how the never-ending search for work had driven their daughter to despair.
Her father Tony, 53, said: ‘I lost track of the different types of jobs she applied for. It was really hard seeing her confidence suffer after each rejection. She just wanted to work and earn some cash. I didn’t realise how hard it would be to get a job.’
Miss Harrison grew up in Darwen, Lancashire, and passed ten good GCSEs at Moorland High School before gaining A-levels in film and media studies and English language at Runshaw College, Leyland.
She won a place at South Bank University in London to study film and media studies, but quit after a year because she was not enjoying the course.
Back home, she set her sights on teaching, applying for secretarial or dinner lady jobs at local schools in the hope of becoming a teaching assistant.
Miss Harrison, who was on £51-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance, finally lowered her sights in a bid to simply earn some money, but even applications for waitressing jobs got nowhere.
She asked supermarkets, including Tesco, for work stacking shelves or at check-ins and visited shops such as WH Smith and McDonald’s inquiring in vain about sales positions.
Over the two years after she left college her family estimate she applied for more than 200 jobs.
‘In the end it obviously got her down to such a point that she felt she had no future,’ said her father, a former joiner.
On March 30 Miss Harrison received yet another rejection, from a nursery, and the next day her father found her dead in the lounge, surrounded by empty pill packets and bottles.
She left three suicide notes – one each for her parents, and one for her boyfriend, Nathan Haworth, 22.
They read: ‘It’s just that I don’t want to be me any more.
‘Please don’t be sad. It’s not your fault. I want everybody in life to be HAPPY.’
Her mother Louise, 43, added: ‘Vicky was a bright, bubbly and clever girl but she became depressed at not being able to find a job. Vicky found it humiliating that she had been out of work for so long and couldn’t take it any more. We are struggling to come to terms with it. Vicky is and always was special.’
Mr Harrison said: ‘She was such a gorgeous girl and had a stunning smile. She was clever too. There was no reason why she shouldn’t have been able to find a job.
‘I am sure that the latest rejection letter combined with the fact that she had to go and sign on the next day was too much for her.
‘She had decided university was not for her but she never expected to struggle so much to find a job. The timing was unlucky because of the recession.’
Mr Harrison added: ‘I think she was upset that she had no money and she felt she was losing touch with her friends because she couldn’t go out. She never wanted any charity and that is why she was so desperate for work.
‘What upsets us so much is that there are obviously so many other people in a similar position.’
Miss Harrison’s family and boyfriend hope to set up a foundation in her memory to help young people struggling to find work.
‘It needs to be a place where people can talk and understand that this is not the end of the world,’ said Mr Haworth. ‘Some good needs to come from Vicky’s death.’
Figures published this week showed that 4,045 18-to-24 year olds in East Lancashire were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance last month, compared to 2,730 in July 2008, before the recession.
Nationally, youth unemployment rose to 929,000 for the December to February period, up 4,000 on the previous three months, with the overall total hitting 2.5million.
Critics say Labour policies are creating a ‘lost generation’ of school leavers unable to find employment.