The BBC found at least 16 young people have killed themselves in England’s Children and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) inpatient centres since 2016.
The BBC podcast, The Next Episode, discovered that seven people died last year, four in 2018, three in 2017 and two in 2016, NHS England said, in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The podcast follows the story of Christie Harnett who was a patient at West Lane CAMHS unit in Middlesbrough when she died aged 17. The reporter Georgia Coan travels to Middlesbrough to speak to Christie’s parents (including her mum who has not yet spoken to the media), David Moore, a parent who set up a Facebook group and has campaigned outside the hospital since last year, and Gemma who was an ex-patient at West Lane before it was closed down last year.
The hospital was closed down in August last year after a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection rated it inadequate. This was following two deaths in the unit within the space of a few months, including the suicide of Nadia Sharif.
NHS England has commissioned an independent investigation into West Lane Hospital, which is due to finish at the end of 2020.
Deborah Coles, director of charity Inquest, which looks at state-related deaths in England and Wales, said: “Too many children and young people are dying in mental health care.
“Despite the government’s promises about prioritising and addressing this, it is deeply concerning to see that such deaths have not only continued but that numbers have gone up.
An investigation was carried out, and reported by Georgia Coan for The Next Episode podcast.
Articles were published by BBC News, and The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail picked up the story: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7933999/Teen-claims-mental-health-hospital-unit-staff-let-patients-hurt-drank-coffee.html
Award-winning columnist Ian Birrell tweeted about the podcast episode, and it gained lots of attention on social media.
The Next Episode is aimed at youth audiences (18-25 years old) from working-class backgrounds, so reached an underserved demographic who would usually not digest news about this topic from the mainstream media. The Next Episode was one of the BBC’s highest performing podcasts with under 35s. Suicides in Mental Health Hospitals got almost 3,000 downloads off-platform, and had the one of the largest percentages of under 25 audiences. The podcast also got pick up online, both on Facebook and Twitter, with many mental health campaigners and parents (including CAMHS in Crisis) sharing.
The families were very happy with how their stories were dealt with and Gemma* (named changed) (who spoke to the podcast exclusively) was so relieved to have a chance to share her experience as many mental health patients in units feel they don’t have a voice or an opportunity to speak for themselves.
Georgia is staying across the story so she can update it once the investigation is complete.