THE inquest into the death of Kendal schoolgirl Helena Farrell opened yesterday with claims the children’s mental health service at the time was ‘in disarray’.
Helena, 15, was found hanged in woodland behind the town’s Castle Green Hotel on January 4, 2013, exactly a month after her parents asked for ‘urgent’ help for her ‘suicidal thoughts and bulimia’.
“The school nurse said she would make an urgent referral that day to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service),” her father, Enda Farrell, told the court.
“She did say to us: ‘Unfortunately there’s a long waiting list at CAMHS but I’ll try to see if I can get that speeded up’.”
Mr Farrell told court that the referral was not made until December 10 and Helena was ‘triaged’ twice before a counsellor took the case on.
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She was eventually invited for an assessment meeting on January 3 - just 24 hours before her death.
“On the day I took my daughter to CAMHS I expected someone of education and with experience would know that my daughter was coming as an urgent referral because she was suicidal and bulimic and I expected something to actually happen there,” continued Mr Farrell. “And it didn’t.”
He told the court the counsellor was ‘gruff’ and ‘unfriendly’ and that Helena had described the session as ‘terrible’.
“I remember the two of us getting into the car and she said: ‘Oh, she was terrible’.
“I said: ‘Was she?’ and she said: ‘Yes, she was so cold, she was terrible, I never want to go back there’.”
Helena had also been seen by her GP at the Captain French Lane surgery, Kendal, but the doctor believed she was not at risk of harming herself.
Mr Farrell later sought the advice of other professionals and was put in touch with Ambleside psychologist, John Farrell, who described local mental health services for children as being ‘in disarray’.
Helena was found hanged at around 6.50pm on January 4 by ex-boyfriend, Billy Williams, now 18, a friend of his, and Cumbria policeman, PC Paul Kelly.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said PC Kelly. “I wasn’t expecting to see what I found.”
The inquest heard that help had initially been sought for Helena after she confessed to an eating disorder that she’d been suffering since falling victim to a sexual assault on a three-month exchange trip to Germany.
She had sought help from staff at Kirkbie Kendal School, where she was a pupil, and that night went on to take an overdose of paracetamol.
The following day her parents were called into school and told about the eating disorder and assault.
She later attended a party where others in attendance claimed she tried to cut herself with a knife.
Helena had previously attended the Windermere School and was a high achiever in both sports and the arts.
“My daughter to me was a very bright, intelligent and adventurous, fun-loving, life-loving girl,” added Mr Farrell.