A teen who watched guides on how to commit suicide online told therapists she planned to kill herself but was treated with “ambivalence” her mum has claimed.
A fatal accident inquiry into the death of Sophie Parkinson began at Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday.
Sophie took her own life at her family home in Liff, Dundee in 2014, at just 13-years-old, after first seeking help from doctors at the age of seven.
Mum Ruth Moss had fought for an inquiry into her daughter’s death, claiming NHS Tayside’s Child and Adolescent Health Services (CAMS) had failed to take her suicidal risk seriously.
Yesterday she gave evidence on the first day of the hearing, which is expected to last the remainder of this week, and told the court that the second year pupil at Dundee High School had killed herself just a week after discussing methods of suicide with a physician.
Mrs Moss, who is a nurse, also told the hearing that on a separate occasion Sophie had discussed a failed suicide bid, but the episode was ruled out as a genuine attempt by a doctor.
She told the hearing: “The bottom line is that Sophie had made it clear what she wanted to do, only her GP seemed to recognise this and even then he didn’t do anything about it.
“Sophie said on many occasions that she wanted to die by suicide, she had told her guidance teacher that he had stopped her from killing herself five times, she had told me she wanted to die by suicide.
“What more did she have to do before she was assessed as high risk of suicide? Despite her ticking every box on NHS Tayside’s own categories for high-risk.”
During examination from Richard Pugh, who is representing the health board, she refuted that she had been involved in discussions surrounding a “safety plan”, which clinicians had claimed was designed to help Sophie cope when her condition worsened.
Mrs Moss said some of the elements had been discussed with her but she had never seen the plan in its entirety, and had not signed off on its contents.
She said that there were a number of issues with the document which she did not agree with and there was also a second plan that had been drawn up without her knowledge, which she discovered in Sophie’s bedroom after she died.
When Mr Pugh suggested that the number of meetings held with both Sophie and her mum showed the service had taken it seriously, she said that the problem was with “quality, not quantity”.
She added: “It’s all very well to sit and listen to somebody’s concerns then do nothing about them – it makes absolutely no difference.
“I repeatedly raised concerns with Calms, and nothing was done. They took them with a pinch of salt and were ambivalent towards them.
“To give an example of something from my job, I could be looking at a patient’s ECG (heart test) and say there’s something wrong with it, but it doesn’t make a difference to them if I don’t do something about it.”
Later, she added: “I could go to my GP six or seven times and not be referred for cancer treatment despite having symptoms.”
‘Behind the smile there’s a hurting heart’: Teen’s writing reveals painful ordeal of her condition
The court was also shown examples of Sophie’s personal writing, where she gave an insight into her mental illness.
One piece, shown to the court, said: “Just smile, it’s easier than explaining what’s wrong. Behind the smile there’s a hurting heart.”
The piece also contained emojis, which implied that Sophie felt she had to pretend she was happy outwardly even if she was feeling depressed or suicidal.
“It feels awful to say these things when she’s not here to defend herself, but that’s just what she was like.
Mrs Moss also gave an account of her daughter’s final months and how she had become unrecognisable to her family.
She said: “Sophie’s behaviour became really difficult at that stage. Sometimes she was just a little ball of anger.
“It’s hard because she is dead and it’s difficult to say things about her that aren’t positive, but it’s true to say in the last few months of her life she became extremely difficult to manage.
“She was a beautiful young girl, very intelligent beyond her years – deep down she was a great child.
“But in her final months it became hellish, her behaviour impacted on everyone.
“She had gone from being really quite a happy child to the point that you just didn’t see that all towards the end. She was just angry all the time, and it happened with the flick of a switch.
“If Sophie wanted to do something, she would, and that became very difficult to manage – so I spent much of time trying to keep the family together, and trying to give her older brother, Josh, some attention.”
Mrs Moss said her daughter wore a “mask”, when asked by her solicitor David Adams whether her daughter hid her true feelings.
She said: “Very rarely did you see the real Sophie, the hid everything.
“When it happened, it was heartbreaking because I was holding this child who was telling me that she wanted to die, she hated herself, and she didn’t want to be on the planet anymore.
“All I could do was cuddle her really.”
Mrs Moss said nobody involved with CAMS, which offered support to Sophie in two different spells between 2011-2013, had offered her daughter a diagnosis, asked whether she had been bullied at school or been abused, or whether there was a history of mental illness in the family.
The inquiry, at Dundee Sheriff Court, continues.