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Mental heath funding plea by mum after daughter’s suicide

‘Things need to change’ appeal on the day inquest hears how woman battled with depression

13 October, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Sian Wither­idge: ‘She always put friends, family and strangers before herself and her own needs’

A MOTHER has pleaded for more investment in the mental health system after an inquest found that her daughter took her own life.

“Deeply caring” Sian Witheridge had battled mental health problems for years, St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday.

Writing online, her mother, Joanne, said: “Today has been World Mental Health Day, the same day as the inquest into my Sian’s death. Spare a thought for the underfunded system that can’t cope with the burgeoning mental health crisis.

“Things need to change in order to help more people and possibly save lives in the future.”

Ms Witheridge, 36, was found dead in her flat off Holloway Road on May 30.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell said she would be issuing a prevention of future deaths report at the end of the inquest.

Ms Hassell noted concerns that Highbury Grove Crisis Centre, where Ms Witheridge was staying just before her death, did not have access to her full care notes.

“It is sub-optimal to say the least that they are not available to everybody,” Ms Hassell said.

But she also noted examples of “excellent practice” by healthcare professionals.

Ms Witheridge, born in Newport, moved to London after university. She had diagnoses of depression and anxiety but felt many of her difficulties stemmed from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by “significant childhood trauma”.

She had attempted suicide several times and was a familiar face at Highgate Mental Health Centre and Drayton Park Women’s Crisis House.

Ms Witheridge often raised money for good causes, including the Single Homeless Project, where she worked and volunteered, and the Disabilities Trust.

Her brother, Simon, told the inquest: “She always put friends, family and strangers before herself and her own needs. She was nine years older and like a second mother to me – she spent much of her teenage years looking after me.”

Crisis teams operations manager Debbie May told the inquest that changes were being made so staff at Highbury Grove, run by housing association One Housing, would have access to the NHS trust’s notes.

Ms Hassell said she felt Ms Witheridge’s intelligence and familiarity with the mental health system may have led to her telling healthcare professionals what they wanted to hear.

“They have to be aware of that as best they can,” Ms Hassell said. “It is about the organisation as a whole.” She added: “Would this have made any difference to Sian? I am not sure that anything would have done. It seems to me that she was really quite poorly.”

Ms Hassell said Ms Witheridge died from suspension by ligature and gave the cause of death as suicide.

A Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We offer our deep sympathies to Ms Witheridge’s family for their tragic loss.

“We welcome the coroner’s acknowledgement of the steps taken to enable easier, external access to the trust’s electronic medical records and her positive comments about the work of our care co-ordinators.

“However, we await her more detailed report and are determined to address and learn from any of the issues raised in it.”

• Samaritans can be called free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

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