Christine McGuinness has revealed that her nine-year-old autistic daughter did not “want to live anymore” after the Covid lockdown lifted and she returned to school.
The model and TV presenter said that virus restrictions in school meant that her daughter, Penelope, was “not allowed to play with the friends [she] used to play with”.
Schools were forced to implement “Covid bubbles” – specific groups of pupils who could only have contact with one another throughout the school day.
Students had to stay in their bubbles during lessons, as well as during play and lunch times. Contact between bubbles was highly limited to avoid spreading Covid-19.
However, McGuinness said her daughter felt as though her friends who were outside her bubble did not like her anymore.
She told The Sun’s Fabulous Magazine that Penelope also did not understand why her teacher was not allowed to “give her a cuddle when she was upset”.
McGuinness, 34, continued: “She took it very personally. And she said, ‘Mummy, I don’t want to live anymore. I want to go to heaven’.
“The panic for me of, ‘What if she does do something, not understanding that that thing is forever?’ It was a heartbreaking time and probably one of the most difficult conversations I will ever have in my life.”
The mother-of-three described Penelope as “a very sensitive little girl”.
“She’s very emotional. She doesn’t understand her emotions very well. That’s something that we’ve had to try to teach her,” she added.
McGuinness herself has also been diagnosed with autism. In December 2021, the couple released a BBC documentary about their family’s journey with autism titled Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism.
Recently, McGuinness also opened up about having marriage problems with Paddy and revealed that they were going through a “very, very difficult time”.
The couple have been together for 15 years after they met at the Liverpool Tennis Tournament in 2007.
On Tuesday 12 July, McGuinness appeared on ITV’s Lorraine and said that they were working through their marriage “ups and downs”.
She said: “I think all marriages – especially long ones like ours – it’s not always going to be plain sailing but we’re trying to deal with things as privately as possible.
“We just want to be there to support the children and have an amazing summer. We’re going away on a family holiday next week and we’re really excited. They’re always going to be our focus.”
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.