A ‘brilliant’ and ‘sparkling' Sheffield schoolboy who took his own life had been failed by the system, an inquest has concluded.
But delays in 17-year-old Aryan Akhgar getting the care he needed after an earlier suicide attempt did not ultimately cause or contribute to his death, a coroner ruled.
The hugely gifted Birkdale School student was found hanging at his home in Ranmoor on February 16 last year and taken to Northern General Hospital, where he died of his injuries on March 6.
Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard how Aryan had suffered from depression after an ‘extreme emotional reaction’ to breaking up with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve in 2017.
He was talked down by police from a car park roof on January 9, 2018, following what it transpired was his third attempt to kill himself, and taken to Northern General Hospital that day.
There, he was assessed by mental health nurses who deemed his risk was so severe he needed an ‘urgent’ response the next day.
But his family were not contacted until January 12 and it was another three days before he was seen by staff from Sheffield's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Following a two-day inquest into his death, assistant coroner Steven Eccleston found Aryan had fallen through a 'gap’ between mental health services for children, provided by Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and those for adults, run by Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.
The inquest heard from health chiefs who insisted that gap affecting 16 and 17-year-olds had been closed, but admitted the extra resources identified as being necessary for children's mental health care in the city had yet to be funded.
Mr Eccleston said he would write to Sheffield Children’s Hospital and to Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for funding healthcare in the city, with recommendations to prevent future deaths.
In his conclusion, he described Aryan as a ‘sparkling and brilliant young man’ for whom there had been an ‘admitted failing’ to obtain the urgent response he required on January 9.
But he said Aryan was eventually seen three times by CAMHS before being discharged on February 3, which he felt was a ‘reasonable’ decision given the apparent improvement in the teenager’s condition.
“All the professionals we heard from were clear that at the time in question there was a gap in the service for 16 and 17-year-olds in Sheffield. If they required a quick service they couldn’t get it because they weren’t adults,” he said.
“I was told this gap had been closed and I hope this is the case, though it was a very, very recent closing, I understand.”
Speaking after the inquest, Aryan’s father Babak, described the agonising decision to withdraw Aryan’s life support as the ‘darkest moment of our lives’ and said he felt Aryan had not received the care he deserved.
“We were delighted when we thought Aryan would start receiving the support we felt he needed,” he said.
“However, we felt there was no sense of urgency and staff didn’t realise the gravity of the situation. We kept being told that it was just a ‘teenage episode’.
“To be then told after his death that our boy had tried to end his life several times previously, and his condition was classed as high risk came as a huge shock.”
Sinead Rollinson-Hayes, from the law firm Irwin Mitchell which represented Aryan’s family, said after the inquest that it was ‘vital’ lessons were learned so others do not have to endure the ‘anguish’ they continue to suffer.
Dr Mike Hunter, executive medical director at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to offer our deepest condolences to Aryan’s family. We are committed to working with Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and our commissioners to do everything we can to support young people in Sheffield.”
Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s medical director Jeff Perring said: “We were deeply saddened by Aryan’s death and our thoughts are with the family.
“Since this happened, we’ve taken steps to improve the links between services for young people and adults, but there is more to do. While these gaps didn't contribute to the tragic circumstances on Aryan's situation, these circumstances have highlighted areas where things need to happen differently.
"We are working with our partner agencies and commissioners to ensure we are providing the care and support vulnerable young people need.”
For confidential support in the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123.