Suicide risk patient had belt in room

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A SUICIDAL woman had access to belts, shoelaces and a cigarette lighter as she was being treated in hospital, an inquest heard.

Troubled Maria Evans tried to self-harm or make serious attempts to take her life 20 times in less than a year before she finally succeeded.

The 20-year-old was found dead in a bathroom with a dressing gown cord wrapped around her neck in a secure psychiatric unit at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.

A pathologist gave the cause of death as ligature strangulation.

The inquest was told she had previously attempted to put shoelaces and a belt around her neck eight times in the weeks before her death in November 2009.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul Birkett said Miss Evans, who had been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder, began self-harming at eight and took her first overdose when she was 10.

She was admitted to the secure unit under the Mental Health Act after she climbed on to the roof and threatened to jump off before a policewoman talked her down.

Dr Birkett said he was not totally certain Miss Evans, who went to school in Shiregreen and Firth Park, wanted to commit suicide.

She seemed better in the week before her death and her care was relaxed from constant observations to round-the-clock checks every five minutes.

The psychiatrist said it was not his decision to give Miss Evans a dressing gown with a belt and he was not informed.

Despite Miss Evans being under one-to-one observation, she managed to obtain shoelaces to use as ligatures and a lighter to burn her arms.

But she went 12 days without attempting to self-harm, the longest in five months and had been asking about a discharge.

“I was extremely surprised at the subsequent events,” said Dr Birkett.

It was difficult to tell whether she was attention seeking but she had twice sought to self-harm by swallowing a razor and an overdose of tablets both needing medical help.

“She probably had the opportunity to repeat either of those acts and she didn’t,” said Dr Birkett.

“That makes me sceptical about whether she understood just how dangerous the use of a ligature was.”

He added: “She would probably have acknowledged that death was a possible outcome but I think she probably grossly under-estimated the risk that she was taking.”

The hearing continues.