Peaches' death 'sudden' and 'unexplained'
Peaches Geldof, the 25-year-old daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, was found dead at her home in the UK by police on Monday.PT2M43S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-369l6 620 349 April 8, 2014
Paula Yates' death came at the worst possible time for her daughter Peaches Geldof, who also lived with the burden of a family predisposition to mental illness, according to psychology experts.
Geldof, a model and media personality, was found dead on Monday afternoon UK time at her home in Kent, south-east of London. Fourteen years earlier, Yates died of an accidental heroin overdose, when Geldof was just 11 years old.
Peaches Geldof: struggled with the death of her mother. Photo: AFP
Geldof's cause of death is yet to be determined. However a day before she died she posted online a photograph of herself as a small child alongside her mother.
"Children who experience the early death of a parent just before adolescence - when they are taking their first steps away from their family - [it] can predispose them to all kinds of psychological problems," said child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg. "It also sets them up for pathological grief, when children cannot come to terms with serious loss."
Studies reveal childhood bereavement can increase the likelihood of substance abuse, criminal behaviour and school underachievement.
Peaches Geldof posted this picture of her with mother Paula Yates the day before her body was found.
Dr Carr-Gregg said while children under the age of five were unable to fully understand the universality and finality of death, older children were far more vulnerable.
"During adolescence you are pulling away from your parents and that creates turmoil. If a parent dies suddenly, at a time when you are emancipating from them, children can feel guilty and confused.
"Adolescent grief is a very disruptive process. They don't grieve like adults and they need a lot of support to get through it. These kids grow up a lot quicker as a result of having that experience."
Peaches Geldof's wedding to Thomas Cohen in a picture from Hello magazine.
Chief executive of beyondblue, Kate Carnell, said the sudden death of a parent at a "critical transition age" can lead to mental health issues, panic attacks and possibly post traumatic stress disorder.
"Often children experience high levels of guilt and question if they could have changed things."
In 2012, Geldof acknowledged the difficulty and pain in dealing with her mother's tragic and sudden death.
Peaches Geldof is the second daughter of musician Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, pictured here together in 1985. Photo: Getty Images
"I remember the day my mother died, and it's still hard to talk about it. I just blocked it out. I went to school the next day because my father's mentality was to keep calm and carry on," she said.
The 25-year-old also admitted to being badly affected by her parents' divorce in 1996, and revealed how she took drugs during her turbulent teenage years.
"The very worst thing that happened to me started with my parents' divorce, it really affected the rest of my life," she said.
Following her divorce from Peaches' father, Bob Geldof, Yates herself struggled with mental health issues, in the wake of the death of her partner Michael Hutchence in 1997. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1998 with depression, and attempted suicide two months later, which saw her lose custody of her children.
Dr Carr-Gregg said children with a depressed parent were four times more likely to develop the disorder themselves, and had a 40 per cent chance of experiencing depression by the time they turn 20.
"If both parents are depressed then you have a 50 per cent chance of getting depression. There is a distinct inheritability of mental illness."
But he said not all children were "destined to repeat genetics".
"It depends on the person's temperament and amount of support. We can do quite a bit to build our own resilience. Even if you come from a miserable background you can supercede those circumstances."
* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.