The Guardian

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

[early editions only]


Suicide risk clear, say parents

Sarah Boseley, health editor

Wednesday February 6, 2002

The parents of a young woman who killed herself while a voluntary patient in a mental hospital have criticised the system for failing to ensure people who are suicidal are kept from self harm.

Chris and Helen Reynolds said there were clear signs that their daughter, Belinda, wanted to take her own life. She had made a suicide attempt days before she succeeded.

Aylesbury coroner's court returned an open verdict on her death on Monday, criticising the hospital for neglect.

Mind, the mental health charity, said that suicidal patients were often not properly supervised in hospital. A spokeswoman said: "We need serious improvements to the supervision of hospital patients deemed to be at risk."

Latest performance indicators for mental hospitals, released on Friday, show there was an increase of 1% in suicide rates in 2001, after a drop in the previous two years.

Mr Reynolds said there had been clear signs his daughter was at risk while staying at the Tindal Centre, in Aylesbury. "She died on April 14. On the ninth it was recorded that her situation was deteriorating." On April 12 Ms Reynolds was found with shoelaces round her neck; she later handed them in. She spent the 14th, her 35th birthday, with visitors, in the evening having a meal with friends. At 8.54pm she asked for her shoelaces and scissors, which she said were for cutting her hair.

She was given the laces and a penknife that had a scissor attachment. She went to the lavatory. Ten minutes later her friends called the staff, but she had hanged herself with the laces from the toilet door.

Keith Nieland, the chief executive of Buckinghamshire mental health NHS trust, said he did not consider that the hospital was to blame.