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System failed our Caroline, claims mum

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:34 03 March 2010

HEARTBREAK has led a mother to speak of her despair after her daughter was found hanged in her Ipswich flat.

Caroline Emsden, 30, of Portman Road, made a string of past suicide attempts, including overdosing on tablets, electrocuting herself with a hairdryer and she also threatened to jump off the Orwell Bridge.

HEARTBREAK has led a mother to speak of her despair after her daughter was found hanged in her Ipswich flat.

Caroline Emsden, 30, of Portman Road, made a string of past suicide attempts, including overdosing on tablets, electrocuting herself with a hairdryer and she also threatened to jump off the Orwell Bridge.

She was found dead on July 2 this year after she failed to keep an appointment with a community psychiatric nurse.

Her mother Jacqueline Emsden, 50, of Geneva Road, Ipswich, claims that a breakdown in communication meant that doctors were unaware that she had made a suicide attempt just four days before she was discharged from St Clements Hospital, on May 28.

At her daughter's inquest, Mrs Emsden asked Dr Kamal Mohammed, a consultant psychiatrist based at St Clements Hospital, if he was aware of Caroline's suicide attempt on May 24 when she took 100 Prozac pills.

When he replied no, Mrs Emsden said: "I didn't think you were informed. I think it is poor communication between the mental health team and social support workers."

Mrs Emsden herself said that she was not aware of many of her daughter's suicide attempts.

Caroline had been allowed out of the hospital during the daytime because she voluntarily attended the hospital.

Mrs Emsden continued: "Caroline tried to electrocute herself in the bathroom with a hairdryer. It just seems the right people were not informed.

"If our daughter was trying to take her own life, we should have been informed. At first, I was angry with what she did, but now I am angry with the system."

Caroline, who had an 11-year-old son, Paul, had suffered from a personality disorder since her late-teens.

For the past five years Caroline had attended Brooks House, an activity and resource centre in Norwich Road, Ipswich, which supports people with serious long-term mental needs.

Stephen Rowe, project manager at the centre, was the last member of staff from the centre to speak to her and visited her at her home address on Friday June 28.

"Her mood was up and down at times," he explained at the inquest. "She would be very supportive and other times fragile."

Her first suicide attempt was in November 2001, when she tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists. Then, on April 10 this year, she was admitted to Ipswich Hospital after she took an overdose of tablets and on May 9 this year she threatened to take her own life by jumping off Orwell Bridge.

In June, she tried to electrocute herself with a hairdryer in the bath.

A note was found in the flat, along with framed photographs on the floor and a newspaper cutting. The family was left a poem from Caroline, although it made little sense.

Her sister, Sharon Howard, 29, said: "To this day, we do not know the reason why she took the overdose. She was happy with her new boyfriend and she had been on holiday. It came out of the blue."

"Over her last seven weeks she distanced herself from all the family. I had been through it with her for the last 15 years and we all tried our best to help her."

She added: "It was heartbreaking telling Paul. Because he has a learning disability we are not sure what he understands, but sometimes he looks up to the sky and saying he wants his mum back."

Mrs Emsden added: "She was a good mum when she lived with us. Even when she moved out she would always come round for Sunday dinner. She loved her roast dinner.

"I have got my memories of her, but it still hurts so much that she has gone."

A consultant pathologist revealed she died of depression of the neck structures due to hanging but was found with normal treatment levels of anti-depressants in her blood.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean offered his condolences to her family into what he described as "very, very sad circumstances" before recording a verdict of suicide at Ipswich Crown Court.

A spokesman for St Clements Hospital declined to comment on the case.

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