Mum of suicide victim says NHS failed her daughter

Evie Douglas, who committed suicide despite repeated pleas for help by her mother. Pic: submitted
Evie Douglas, who committed suicide despite repeated pleas for help by her mother. Pic: submitted
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A GRIEVING mother has told how she made repeated calls for medical help just days before her daughter took her own life.

An investigation has now been launched into the circumstances that led to Evie Douglas committing suicide just one week after stopping treatment with an outpatient team at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Her mother, Freda Douglas, said the 21-year-old, who suffered from depression, attempted suicide several times in the month leading to her death, while under the care of the mental health hospital’s Intensive Home Treatment Team (IHTT).

The incidents, which are noted on her discharge form, concludes that Evie suffered “ongoing thoughts of suicide and self-harm”.

But the popular dance instructor was released from their care exactly a week before her family made the devastating discovery at her Canonmills flat last month.

Ms Douglas, 53, feels her daughter was “completely let down” by the care authority and is “appalled” by her treatment. She told how she contacted the hospital asking them to intervene after the care package was stopped. “No-one ever heard us, our pleas for help fell on deaf ears,” said Ms Douglas.

“When I made the phone calls, they were very patronising and dismissive.

“She made three [suicide] attempts in as many weeks. When I pointed that out I was told what we were talking about were not suicide attempts and were self-harm.

“It’s more than a cry for help when there were three attempts before she died.”

Evie, who had spells as a student at both Edinburgh Napier and Edinburgh University, had been working for a retailer in the Capital while also teaching at the Fiona Henderson School of Dance. She had suffered from bouts of depression for several years – a condition which worsened following the break-up of a long-term relationship last year.

Evie spent five days at a mental health facility in Melrose, close to her family in the Scottish Borders, following the separation.

She had been living in Edinburgh for three years and was under the care of her local GP before the Royal Edinburgh’s IHTT began making regular visits at the end of September.

The team, part of NHS Lothian, found she had “moderate depressive episodes” and showed “emotionally unstable personality traits” but relatives say she was discharged with no follow-up care in place.

Evie had set up Facebook page to help others with the illness in the weeks before she died.

On “Depression Doesn’t Define Me”, she wrote: “I’m just one person and I can’t make a massive difference, but I want to be open and honest, in the hope that this will encourage others to do the same. I know I’m not alone out there, and any support is a step in the right direction.”

She had been set to attend a postgraduate course at the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. Now her family intend to establish a scholarship at the school in her honour.

“It’s my way of ensuring that she continues to dance,” said Ms Douglas. “When she was dancing she was free.

“It was her idea that she wanted to reach out to people suffering from depression and encourage them to talk. I want to carry that on for her. Life is meaningless. My identity was as a mother and you can’t be a mother when you have no child. All I have left is to fight for Evie.”

NHS Lothian has extended its sympathies to the family.

Lorna Martin, chief nurse of Royal Edinburgh, said: “Our deepest condolences go to the family at this sad time and we have invited them to meet with us in the next few weeks to discuss their concerns. As the matter is subject to independent review we are unable to comment further at this time.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com