Family of ‘brilliant’ teenager found hanged at Sheffield home concerned about ‘gap’ in mental health care

The family of a ‘brilliant’ and ‘selfless’ teenager found hanged at his Sheffield home believe he may still be alive were it not for a ‘gap’ in mental health services.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 4:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th January 2019, 4:13 pm
Sheffield Coroner's Court, where the inquest is taking place

Aryan Akhgar’s mother found the 17-year-old hanging at their home in Ranmoor on February 16 last year and he was taken to Northern General Hospital where he died from his injuries on March 6.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court today heard how he had previously tried to take his life on several occasions and on January 9 had called police from the roof of a multi-storey car park telling them he felt suicidal.

Sheffield Coroner's Court, where the inquest is taking place

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Aryan was talked down by officers and taken to Northern General Hospital, where he was seen by mental health nurses that evening.

He was referred for further support but it was not until January 15 that he was visited at home by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

He received two further visits from CAMHS before being discharged from the team’s care on February 3, and also attended private therapy sessions organised by his parents.

An inquest into his death heard today how he may have fallen through a ‘gap' in mental health services locally for those on the cusp of child and adult care.

Aryan attended Birkdale School in Broomhill and was a gifted pupil who in 2017 was awarded a coveted Arkwright Engineering Scholarship reserved for only the brightest students with the potential to become leaders in the industry.

A moving statement from Aryan's father Babak, in which he paid tribute to the ‘brilliant’ and ‘selfless’ teenager, was today read out in court.

In it, he described his son as being ‘incredibly intelligent and talented’ from an early age and told how Aryan had earned a meeting with Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace after single-handedly creating a security app for mobile phones.

Aryan, his father explained, was also part of a trio of budding engineers who in 2014 won a competition by designing a giant steel fork which still graces the headquarters of Sheffield manufacturing firm Gripple.

He volunteered from the age of 15 to help manage the lighting for shows at Sheffield’s Lyceum and Crucible theatres, and was also a keen sportsman, who enjoyed skiing cricket, rugby, tennis and climbing.

He worked part-time at Pizza Hut on West Street, where his father told how at the end of every shift he would give a pizza to a homeless man who slept across the street from the restaurant.

“I was always proud of my son’s achievements but more so the type of man he was becoming,” said Mr Akhgar.

Aryan's grief-stricken friends launched a charity appeal in his memory, raising nearly £13,500 for the Samaritans.

The JustGiving page states: “We will always remember Aryan as that funny kid with a devilish sense of humour, cheeky smile and unparalleled ability when it came to tech, who always helped those he could….

“The world will undoubtedly be a worse place for Aryan not reaching his full potential.”

Mr Akhgar told how a trust fund set up for for the teenager by Aryan’s grandfather was being used to build a school in his name in an impoverished part of Iran – something he said his son would have wanted.

Aryan was described by his father as a ‘happy’ child with no history of mental health problems, and the court heard how he became depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

In a note composed on January 9 but not found until after his death, which the court heard he intended to be read at his funeral, he wrote about his ex-girlfriend: “For me, there’s no escape. In my mind I couldn’t live the next few years constantly missing her.”

But he was thinking about others when he wrote it, asking those he loved to remain ‘cheerful’ and ‘positive’ and urging them not to blame themselves for what happened.

Mr Akhgar told how he and his wife Niloofar were concerned about the care he received after being talked down from the car park roof on January 9.

He said he was told that day that mental health services would call tomorrow to arrange an appointment, but no one got in touch until January 12  – after he had again attempted suicide – and it was another three days before a mental health specialist came to see Aryan.

When he was eventually contacted by CAMHS, having tried numerous times to call them without being able to get through, he said he was advised there had been a ‘mix-up' because Aryan was 17 and it was thought his case was being dealt with by another team.

“I have concerns about the treatment he received and can’t help but wonder whether different treatment would have prevented his death,” he said.

The inquest heard from Aryan’s GP, Dr Deidre Walker, who saw him on January 12.

Asked what she thought of the fact that by the time she saw him, Aryan and his family were still waiting to be contacted by the mental health service, she said that length of wait ‘would always alarm me'.

Assistant coroner Steven Eccleston then asked whether she though people in Aryan’s situation got the service they needed in Sheffield, she responded: “I think there’s a gap. I think it’s difficult for us as GPs to be clear who the first point of contact is for young adults who are maybe 17-and-a-half or in situations where people have been under the care of CAMHS….

“I don’t think there’s always clarity… I think there’s some confusion or grey area for the 16-18 age group, and I’ve seen other young people fall through the gap.”

Britt Taylor, a mental health nurse who saw Aryan at Northern General Hospital on January 9, said she believed he needed a response from mental health services within 24 hours.

She said she felt the Sheffield Treatment and Recovery (STAR) service would be most suitable, as it specialises in looking after young people, but because it was not available to help until the end of the week she chose to refer instead to the Home Treatment Team, which usually supports adults.

The inquest, which is scheduled to last two days, continues.

For confidential support in the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123.