Blackpool woman took own life after chaotic 11-year fight with mental illness

A young Blackpool woman overdosed on prescription meds after suffering from serious mental health problems from the age of 13.

By Wes Holmes
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Friday, 4th March 2022, 8:06 am

Chloe Ashworth, of Worcester Road, died on December 8 2020 two days after calling a suicide helpline and informing them she had taken a drug overdose.

She had a history of mental illness and had been known to mental health services since she was 13, when she was diagnosed with depressive disorder and PTSD, and was found to be at high risk of self harm.

Blackpool town hall

At her inquest at Blackpool town hall today, the court heard that the troubled 24-year-old had been in and out of hospital multiple times in Rochdale, where she was born, and Blackpool in the years leading up to her death.

She took an overdose in April 2015, and in May 2018 she was detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act.

From June 2019 through to September 2020, she was seen by a psychiatrist, Dr Peter Kelsall of the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, who noted ongoing acts of self harm. He said: “She presented as someone who had significant mental health problems for a long time, and was likely to continue to have significant mental health problems. Because of the significant acts of self harm previously, she was at a high risk of harming herself again in the future, and at a much higher risk of suicide in the long term.”

However, Dr Kelsall said he was reluctant to section her, as her self harm behaviours had worsened while in hospital in the past.

He said: “I think detaining her against her will in a hospital could have a big impact on her and her sense of beingable to take control of her own life and decisions. Previously, things had escalated when she was in hospital, so it wouldn’t have decreased the risk that much in the short term, and it could in the long term even increase the risk.”

On May 10 2020, Miss Ashworth was admitted to A&E Royal Oldham Hospital after another episode of serious self harm.

The following day, she was discharged from New Barn, the supported housing where she had lived since she was 18, as staff there ‘didn’t feel able to deal with her’.

She appeared at Oldham A&E again on June 2 following an attempt. The court heard: “Nurses who assessed her noticed she was in crisis, precipitated by the stress of her social situation and feelings of abandonment.”

Another attempt was made on June 7, where she was briefly detained as it was determined she was at risk of future suicide attempts. She was discharged on June 15 on the basis that remaining in hospital was not helping her.

Dr Kelsall said: “The admissions didn’t seem to be helping her, and didn’t seem to be likely to help her.”

He described her repeated acts of self harm as ‘a cry for help’.

"I think the reasons for her acts of self harm were complicated, but I did tend to see them as expressions of the severity of her distress and personal difficulties rather than attempts to end her life,” he said.

The court heard that, on July 30 2020, Miss Ashworth told Dr Kelsall that she had been stockpiling her medication ‘as a back-up’, and that she had come close to taking it after arguing with her family the week before.

The doctor said: “I found it concerning but I didn’t think it represented a very big change in her presentation because she had a lot of suicidal ideation.”

In August 2020, Miss Ashworth again appeared at A&E following an attempt on her life, which Dr Kelsall said upset him as he ‘didn’t get the impression from what she was saying that there was a high risk of her doing that’.

The following month, Dr Kelsall wrote to the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust about transferring Miss Ashworth’s care, as she had recently moved to Blackpool – however, he received no response.

He wrote to the Trust’s mental health team again in November, who referred him to the personality disorders team, who referred him back to the mental health team.

The inquest continues.

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