Kent

Trust admits 'failings' over death of student Lauren Smith

  • 24 October 2013
  • From the section Kent
Lauren Smith
Image caption Lauren Smith took her life weeks into a humanities degree in Wales

A health trust has admitted failings in the care of an 18-year-old Kent student with a history of mental health problems who killed herself.

Lauren Smith, of Canterbury, was found dead at the University in Wales Trinity St David's Lampeter campus in 2012.

Her mother, Laura Smith, said she had been left "heartbroken" and did not want the situation to be repeated.

Kent and Medway NHS Trust said a review found "more could have been done" to support her transfer to Wales.

Lauren, who had a history of self-harming, was weeks into the first year of her humanities degree when she took her own life at the university halls of residence in Lampeter on 17 November 2012.

'Sincere sympathy'

Ceredigion coroner Peter Brunton recorded a verdict of suicide while suffering severe depressive illness, at an inquest into her death in Aberystwyth.

The inquest was told she was not getting the mental health care she should have been receiving.

Ms Smith said there was a lack of support for teenagers with a history of mental health and they were at risk of "slipping through the cracks" when they turned 18, left home or moved to university.

She added: "I was given a false sense of security by assuming risk assessments were being carried out, that my concerns as her mother were being recorded, and that information and records were being shared between agencies.

"There seems to be complacency among mental health professionals when it comes to adolescent mental health - for instance, I was told by one hospital psychiatrist that lots of teenage girls harm themselves, it doesn't mean they're going to do anything."

She added: "There were many opportunities for the outcome to have been different for Lauren.

"We will never know this for sure, but I hope that other vulnerable young people and their families can be spared the additional agony of what ifs? by ensuring that further deaths of those slipping through the cracks - as they transition between Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Adult Services - are prevented."

'Below standard'

A spokeswoman for Kent and Medway NHS Trust said: "Following Lauren's death the trust conducted an immediate review of the care provided. The initial investigation concluded that record-keeping in the case was below the expected standard and the arrangements for transferring care to Wales should have been better managed.

"Further review has highlighted that more could have been done to gather information from other mental health services that had seen Lauren in the past."

In a statement, Hywel Dda Health Board said it had contacted Ms Smith's family "to explain that the appropriate referral to local mental health services was made for Lauren whilst she was resident in our area".

A spokesman for the University in Wales Trinity St David said it had a comprehensive range of support services for students in place, which included mental health advisers, mentors and counsellors.

"These services are provided as soon as the university is made aware of any support needs that our students might have," he said.

He added that the university students' union also provided a student welfare service and a night-time listening service.

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