Parents ask whether Highgate mental health unit could have done more to save their daughter
The devastated parents of a 24-year-old girl who killed herself have questioned whether a therapy team could have done more to help their daughter towards the end of her life.
Anushka Natalia Van Staden-Voce, who suffered from a borderline personality disorder, committed suicide a month after her two-year therapy programme at the Dartmouth Park Unit in Highgate Mental Health Centre came to an end.
In her time at the unit the young woman, who had a history of self-harm and suicide attempts, had moved out of her family home and had enrolled in a teacher training course.
This led doctors and therapists to believe that her condition was improving, St Pancras Coroner’s Court was told at the inquest last Thursday.
In May, after a meeting with her therapy team, Anushka was discharged following the completion of her two-year course. But on August 8 last year her heartbroken father discovered the body of his daughter at her flat in West Hampstead.
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Left on a side table in the living room, was Anushka’s planner with an entry written in gold pen on the date August 7.
Anushka is the first patient using borderline personality disorder services at Dartmouth Park Unit who has committed suicide, the court heard.
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At the inquest Anushka’s parents asked whether warning signs of depression, which they had noticed, had been missed.
Her father, Adrian Voce, said: “I was aware from May onwards that she was suddenly in quite severe depression and she had spoken to me of suicide from May onwards.
He added: “She swore me not to contact anyone and, as she was an adult, that was a difficult position to be in.”
Her therapist, Geoffrey Napthine, said Anushka cancelled their last session because she would find it “too upsetting”.
Anushka’s mother asked for assurances that a case like this would not happen again.
Returning a verdict that Anushka killed herself and died of an overdose, interim coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: “I think the lesson we can take from this inquest and something that the Camden and Islington Foundation Trust can review is that [ending therapy] is a very difficult time for individuals.”
She added: “We do need to accept the therapeutic system is set at 24 months, so I think the way forward is to have more robust risk assessments at the end of that period.”