The death of a teenage girl who took her own life “could have been averted” had mental health services taken her suicidal tendencies more seriously, medical experts have claimed.
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the death of Sophie Parkinson has been taking place at Dundee Sheriff Court this past week.
Sophie took her own life at her family home in Liff in 2014, aged just 13 years old, after first seeking help six years earlier.
Mum Ruth Moss had fought for an inquiry into her daughter’s death, claiming NHS Tayside’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had failed to take her suicidal risk seriously.
Yesterday the FAI heard from three experts who were enlisted to review how CAMHS had dealt with Sophie and her family.
Dr John Marshall, a consultant psychologist, told the court that the risk assessment of the Dundee High’s suicide was flawed.
- Doctor said he had difficulty talking to mum of suicide victim Sophie Parkinson
- Psychologist defends ‘moderate’ risk assessment of suicide teen
- Suicide victim was not given a formal risk assessment by therapists prior to her death
During examination by the health board’s solicitor, Richard Pugh, whether he believed her death could have been prevented, he said that her death may have been avoided.
He said: “The issue for me was that this was a subjective judgement about risk, and I’m not criticising that because it is a typical way you make judgements when you are dealing with a person.
“However, what I am talking about is a more systematic look, based on research on girls Sophie’s age who self-harm and go onto complete (COR) suicide.
“How often, and how severe, someone’s self-harm injuries are is not a good basis for assessing risk when you are talking about girls in these circumstances.
“The risk assessment relied too heavily on what Sophie was telling clinicians, rather than taking into account what the school or what her mother was telling them.
“There are key issues beyond the self harm – the level of pre-occupation she had with death and dying; her impulsivity and erratic mood swings; lack of sleep – these are critical factors in girls who self-harm and go onto complete suicide.”
Dr Aileen Blower, a psychiatrist, was another expert who had looked at the circumstances which had led to Sophie’s death.
She told Mr Pugh that she would have been “alerted” to the risk of suicide and believed that the service should have elevated Sophie to a “high-risk” category when her mental health rapidly worsened.
“The actual severity of the self-harm was not high, the pervasive suicidal thinking was of real concern,” she added.
However, Dr Mischa Mockett, another psychiatrist based in England, said that he did not believe having reviewed the case notes that Sophie was high-risk.
He said: “I don’t believe that there is anything in the history of this case that I have been presented with that shows that this is a young girl that requires an admission to hospital because she is at risk of completing suicide.”
Dr Mockett said that had “absolutely everything” had been in place there would have been a “slight possibility” the tragic outcome, but that was in the context of hindsight.
The FAI resumes on Thursday.