A WOMAN who took her own life in York might have lived had the city's mental health services intervened, a coroner has said.

Police and paramedics found Jennifer Taal, 48, dead at her flat in Hawthorn Terrace, New Earswick, on May 21 last year, after a friend phoned the emergency services to say she had threatened to take an overdose and was not answering her phone.

An inquest this week was told Miss Taal had a history of mental health problems and in the days leading up to her death was having suicidal thoughts.

It was told the assertive outreach team in York was contacted twice by Miss Taal's step-father Robert Worsley and his wife the day she died. They said she was “very distressed” and they were “very worried about her.”

Friend Christopher Jobling, who had been staying at Miss Taal's flat, said staff from the York crisis team visited the flat twice on May 21, at about 3pm and 5pm, as Mr Jobling was told he needed to return to hospital for an injection. The team took him to York Railway Station where he caught a train to Hartlepool.

A statement from Mr Jobling said: “She said if I leave I will take an overdose. I informed York crisis team what Miss Taal said.”

Despite the alleged warning, the crisis team did not take any action, the inquest heard.

Dr Andrew Elmslie, of the assertive outreach team, said: “There is a lot of communication between the crisis team and the outreach team. That conversation was not documented.

“I would have expected if that took place the crisis team would have documented that.”

Rob Turnbull, senior coroner for the York area, responded by saying: “Either the conversation didn’t take place or it was not documented and no action was taken.”

Miss Taal's son Danny Taal said: “We think she has been failed, in the days leading up to her death and on the day itself. In my opinion there was a five hour window to save her.”

He described his mother as “fun” and “always up for a laugh”.

Miss Taal had been discharged from Hartlepool hospital just a few days before her death.

Mr Worsley added: “Someone should have gone round and maybe admitted her into hospital but they never did.

“She was let down, especially on the last day. She should have been taken away.”

Mr Turnbull concluded by saying: “This is a very sad state of affairs. There was perhaps a window of opportunity for someone to intervene. The outcome may have been different. Having said that these cases are very difficult. Mental health services have a very difficult job to do.

“She had considerable support from the outreach team on a day-to-day basis.

Ms Taal had also phoned the outreach team directly on the day she died and asked for them to visit her at her home.

“The last contact [she made with the team] was at 3.45pm,” Mr Turnbull said.

He added: “She was told she couldn’t be visited because of weapons in her address.”

Dr Elmslie replied: “As a rule when people have weapons in their home we offer to meet at an alternative place.”

York Press:

Her step-father said she had talked to the outreach team weeks before about having weapons.

Mr Worsley commented: “They were to protect her from people entering her flat.”

Miss Taal had “expressed concerns” about the flat where she was living and had contacted the police a number of times about people breaking into her home, the inquest heard.

Mr Turbull recorded a conclusion of suicide.

Elizabeth Moody, director of nursing and governance at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said yesterday: “We are sorry that we were unable to prevent Ms Taal’s sad death and our thoughts are with her friends and family at this difficult time.

“As explained at the inquest, Ms Taal had complex mental health problems and she was being supported regularly by our community team.

“We always carry out a review when someone under our care dies and this includes speaking to families to see how we could do things differently in the future.

“Although on this occasion there was no indication that we could have prevented what happened, there are always improvements we can make to our services and we welcome feedback from families and friends to help us do this.”

York Press:

If you are suffering mental health problems or have concerns about someone, the following organisations can help:

  • Samaritans offer 24 hour, confidential emotional support service for anyone in distress or experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings on 116 123
  • The NHS 24/7 crisis service in York can be contacted on 01904 610700. The service is for people with acute mental health problems or who are a significant risk to themselves or others.
  • If you have concerns that someone is unwell and not getting the help they need City of York Council’s assessment team can be contacted on 01904 555111. The emergency out of hours number is  0845 034 9417.
  • If you feel somebody is at serious risk of harm you should call 999 and report your concerns.
  • York Mind offers support to people recovering from mental ill health on 01904 643364.