Woman ‘always put on brave face’ before tragic death while being treated on mental health ward, inquest told.

Woman ‘always put on brave face’ before tragic death while being treated on mental health ward, inquest told.

A father was told a mental health unit had “lost” his daughter over the phone after she died while under their care, an inquest heard. A jury is examining the death of Sophie Alderman, who tragically died while on a mental health ward in Essex.

Sophie, aged 27, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act when she was found unresponsive in the Willow Ward of Rochford Community Hospital on August 19, 2022. She tragically could not be saved and died on the ward, where she had been staying since the end of June.

The inquest into Sophie’s death began at Essex Coroners’ Court on Tuesday (April 2), where it was heard she had a history of struggles with mental health issues, including a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) during her adolescence.

In a pen portrait of Sophie read out by her family’s lawyer, her mother shared how Sophie was the oldest of her three children, and from a young age had displayed “calmness and curiosity” with other people and was “the most inquisitive little girl” who “explored the world around her”.

Sophie’s mother said as she progressed into primary school she began to experience “blackouts sporadically” and her battle with mental health issues intensified when going into adolescence, where blackouts and anxiety became more regular.

The jury heard Sophie was engaged with adolescent mental health services between the ages of 14 and 18, where her mental health would go through four to eight-week instalments of improvement and decline around taking various medications. When she went through worse periods, her mother said: “Her hair and nails wouldn’t be done, and it was like experiencing a whole different person. Sophie would come off the medication and she said she was fine and didn’t need it, and had a spiral and come back down.

“Sophie would always put on a brave face for her little sister. She loved her and would pull funny faces together and [enjoyed] being different. That was Sophie down to a T; she had a wonderful sense of humour. These are the moments I cherish and always miss.”

The court heard that Sophie said she could hear “voices” as she got older, including a time when she could hear them claiming she would hurt her little sister. Her family stated they knew Sophie would never harm her sister and that it would have been distressing for her, and the decision was made that Sophie should not remain at home and had previously spent time in a residential home with 24-hour care.

In June 2016, Sophie was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). She came under the care of Essex University Partnership Trust (EPUT) when she was admitted for assessment at Basildon Mental Health Unit in April 2022, a month after she moved to Essex.

Sophie’s mother said she “never wanted to die” and just “wanted the voices to stop”. She continued: “It’s so upsetting to think about the pain she carried with her all her life.

“She would try her best to mask her mental health to her sister. We all felt her mental health wasn’t improving and there was a reliance on medication.” Sophie’s mother said that she had previously self-harmed as it “helped her with the voices” and would go through periods of neglecting her self-care.

Sophie died on August 19, 2022, while staying at Rochford Community Hospital in the Willow Ward, while sectioned under section three of the Mental Health Act. Previously, she had been sectioned in Basildon Hospital from April 30 to June 15 when she was discharged to be cared for in the community. However, she was sectioned again on June 26.

The court heard that Sophie’s father had received a phone call from someone on the ward identifying themselves as a nurse, to break the news that his daughter had died. In her statement in court, Sophie’s mother continued: “[Her dad] was informed that Sophie died that day. The nurse told him ‘We have lost Sophie’. He asked ‘did she run away’ and they said she had died. This was a particularly upsetting way to find out the death of our daughter.

“She is hugely missed by loved ones. Her 12-year-old sister tells me daily how she wished Sophie would come back, that the world was just the best place with Sophie. When with [her sister], Sophie could shut off everything else and just make silly faces and laugh.

“Sophie was a good person with a massive heart. Even in the grief of losing her, she has brought so much positivity. She taught us there is nothing you can’t work through because there will be nothing as bad as losing your sister or daughter. If she loved you, you were loved. That was it. That is something we will all miss.”

The jury is set to examine Sophie’s medical treatment, care plan and self-harm and risk assessments, the supervision and level of observations in Rochford Hospital, the emergency response on the day of her death, and the relevant policies and procedures. 

The inquest, which is expected to last more than a week, continues.

Credit: Essex live

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