Doctors sent our girl home to die
Parents hit out over suicide of anorexic pupil 15, just five days after clinic discharged her
THE parents of an anorexic schoolgirl who stepped in front of a train five days after being released from a top psychiatric unit said last night that their daughter was failed by authorities ‘from beginning to end’.
Pippa McManus, 15, who weighed as little as four stone, committed suicide after a family argument about her excessive gym use ended with her running out of the house shouting: ‘I am going to kill myself.’
Her body was later found near a local railway station.
The girl’s parents, Marie and James McManus, had expressed reservations about her release from the private Priory clinic, where her treatment was being funded by NHS England, but felt they were ‘left with no choice’, they told an inquest in Stockport.
Speaking after a jury ruled the youngster – known as Pip – committed suicide, Mrs McManus, 51, broke down in tears. She said: ‘Pip spent the last three years fighting against anorexia, malnutrition, depression and selfharm. We believe the failings in our daughter’s care from beginning to end resulted in her death.
‘Effective treatment is needed quickly, and if this had been available to our beautiful daughter maybe she would still be alive today. Maybe we would not have needed this inquest.’
The couple, who have three other children, took Pippa to a doctor around Christmas 2012 when she began ‘spiralling out of control’, becoming obsessed with having a ‘fat’ chin, preoccupied with her diet and exercising fanatically.
She was treated by local mental health services before being detained under the Mental Health Act at the Priory Hospital in Altrincham in September 2014. The inquest charted how Pippa struggled with her eating disorder, had self-harmed and threatened suicide during her 15-month stay in the specialist unit. Pippa was allowed a home visit in February 2015, but seven goodbye letters to her parents, siblings, friends and even her pet dog were found and she was returned to hospital.
One note described how she wanted to ‘grow up and have a life, but I don’t have one’. She added: ‘I cannot fight anorexia any more than I have done. I have tried so very hard.’
Dr Janet Walsh, a consultant adolescent psychiatrist in charge of the teenager’s treatment, told the inquest there was nothing to make her or her colleagues believe that Pippa was a suicide risk when she was discharged on December 4, 2015, on extended home leave. The jury agreed that sending her home was appropriate but stressed that the discharge was poorly planned by Trafford Child And Adolescent Mental Health Services. They also said it was not made clear to Pippa’s parents that the risk of suicide was greater in the first few days after her discharge. Deborah Coles, director of campaign group Inquest which has been supporting the family, said: ‘Pip’s death has exposed a mental health system which pushed through the discharge of a highly vulnerable child without any of the support or care in place to make sure she would be safe. Her terrified family knew there was huge risk. Their concerns were dismissed and minimised throughout.’
Mrs McManus has now set up the Pip Foundation to help the charity Anorexia And Bulimia Care. She said: ‘Pippa hated herself. She thought she was the ugliest person in the world. Whatever you said, it didn’t make a difference because that’s what the anorexia was telling her.
‘ We needed mental health workers to work with us but they weren’t there to do that. We were let down by everybody.’
She added: ‘The tear in the thread of our family will never be mended. We do not want Pip’s life and suffering to have been in vain.
‘Whenever she was able she tried to help others with similar conditions. We are planning to continue her good work through the Pip Foundation.
‘We especially want to create a dedicated early intervention centre to help young people and their families.’
Paula Stanford, director of the Priory, said: ‘Our heartfelt sympathies are with Pip’s family and we will now carefully consider the findings of the jury.’
‘We were let down by everybody’
So much promise: Pippa McManus who died at 15
Battle: Pippa at the height of her struggle with anorexia