A bright young student committed suicide in a mental health hospital.
Tottenham Hotspur fan, Michael McDonald, 28, had a history of mental health problems stretching back into his teens and killed himself at Tooting’s Springfield Hospital on March 11, this year.
He lived with his parents Lesley and Colin McDonald in Wallington, Sutton, and was described in coroner’s court as a high-achiever who received straight As at A-level but had to drop out of university due to his chronic fatigue.
An investigation was launched at the hospital after Mr McDonald was found during a morning check having asphyxiated himself with a plastic bag.
Plastic bags, along with a number of other items, are contraband at the hospital and are taken from patients.
Springfield Hospital in Tooting
It is not known where Mr McDonald got the plastic bag from, or how he got it into hospital. He had been searched, as usual, the previous day when he returned from buying bottles of Ribena and sweets from a nearby shop.
His father, a retired police officer, said: “The chronic fatigue was the main aspect of it. He had depression and anxiety but the biggest part was chronic fatigue.
“He was very intelligent, very clever. Certainly, from July  up to his time of death, I would say there were some very bizarre conversations we actually had where he did appear to be other people at times and he came out with things that weren’t logical. Prior to July he was actually quite logical.
“I can only say that in the beginning I didn’t believe he was capable of taking his own life, only much further down the line even my feelings changed – that he was more than capable of taking his own life.”
At his inquest today (Wednesday, September 3), at Westminster Coroner’s, the court heard Mr McDonald had made attempts to take his own life in the past.
During one hospital admission he appeared to ask his parents’ permission to end his own life and at other times he had been bed-bound, stopped eating and was cared for by his mother.
Mr McDonald spent almost three months in Springfield and was on anti-depressants. He was admitted in December 2013 after his mother discovered a suicide note and police were called during an incident where he was screaming and pulled down some curtains.
Coroner Dr William Dolman described Mr McDonald’s mental health state as a “rollercoaster”. In February this year he talked about ending his own life, but in March he was responding to clinicians and working towards his discharge.
On the morning of his death he was checked on at 7.10am, was asleep, and again at 7.40am when he was found asphyxiated.
Staff and paramedics from the London Ambulance Service attempted to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead.
Westminster Coroner's Court
A suicide note was found in his room and Ian Higgins, nurse consultant from South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust, said: “I certainly agree with [Coroner Dr William Dolman] that people are individuals, Michael did present as an individual and this incident, on the day it occurred and in the way it occurred, in my view could not have been predicted.”
The medical cause of death was given as asphyxia and Dr Dolman recorded a conclusion of suicide on the balance of his mind being disturbed.
He addressed Mr McDonald’s family and said: “Can I offer you every sympathy? You had to hear everything again, of the long protracted story of your late son and had to hear the stress, not only he had to go through but your family too.”
Dr Dolman also extended his sympathy to staff at Springfield Hospital and added: “Any clinical doctor or carer knows the distress when they lose a patient as well.”