Melissa Martin-Hughes, Schoolgirl Found Hanged After Acne Caused Severe Depression

Source: SWNS

A "brilliant and exceptional" schoolgirl hanged herself in a park after spiralling into depression because of her severe acne, an inquest heard today.

Talented grammar school student Melissa Martin-Hughes, 18, was predicted three A* s in her upcoming A-Level exams and had previously scooped 10A*s at GCSE level.

But the popular red-head suffered from "dark episodes" which started at 14 when she developed acne on her face and upper body.

She began self-harming and later attempted suicide at Beachy Head, Sussex, but was saved after police found her "crying and smelling of alcohol".

Melissa was immediately sectioned and put under the care of the mental health services but was "let down" by "very clear failures" in her care, the inquest was told.

She was only seen twice by a 'crisis team' assigned to her case - and one of those visits lasted only an hour.

Melissa was later discharged from their care - despite scoring herself at "four out of ten" on a suicide scale.

Her body was found hanging at Pittville Park in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on April 26 2010 - seven months after her last appointment.

Melissa's devastated father Donald Hughes, a structural engineer, told Gloucestershire Coroner's Court in Gloucester his family felt "let down" by the services given to Melissa.

The father-of-four said: "Following that incident she underwent assessment locally and had some counselling sessions.

"The sessions unfortunately stopped because of a psychiatric going on long-term sick leave and also Melissa changing system because of becoming 18.

"As a family we do feel let down in this respect. We thought Melissa was still with the crisis team. We always seemed to be one or two steps behind.

"We knew that Melissa was changing from adolescent to adult care but the detail of that never filtered down to us.

"We were always trying to find out what was happening."

Melissa first showed signs of self-harming aged 14, around the time when she developed what was described as "severe acne".

She was prescribed controversial drug Roaccutane and later put on the oral contraceptive pill to try and reduce the skin condition. Both drugs can trigger depression.

The acne improved and Melissa seemed settled until she began suffering exam stress in the run-up to her AS Level exams.

On August 19 2009 - the day before her AS results were due out - she travelled alone to Beachy Head.

She was discovered by police officers and sectioned before her parents collected her and drove her home.

Melissa was then visited at home by Dr Guy Undrill, a consultant psychiatrist who saw her twice, on August 21 and 24, before going off sick for up to a month.

None of his colleagues took on Melissa's case, meaning she never had any follow up appointments and was later discharged.

Desperate messages from Melissa's mother Laura calling for appointments for her daughter were received by his team, but no action was taken, Dr Undrill told the inquest.

He said: "I think it was a very clear failure. The fact that messages were not passed on, notes were not kept.

"There was a clear failure there and it is not something that can be defended.

"The issue is the transition between the crisis team and the Primary Care Assessment and Treatment team and the way messages were handed on."

Melissa visited her GP, Dr Simon Riley, in Cheltenham, on March 24 the following year, complaining of tiredness and an inability to attend school.

She asked him how she could manage getting to school on time after turning up for lessons late because she was over-sleeping and applying make up to cover her acne.

But the doctor failed to look at "the bigger picture" and did not ask Melissa about her depression, or advise her that her medication could be causing low moods, the inquest heard.

He admitted to the inquest: "At the time, the precise problem I was addressing was as she was presenting it.

"From my point of view the previous summer was extraordinary and out of context with the family."

Just over a month later, on April 26, Melissa's parents woke to find she was missing from her room and her bed had not been slept in.

They alerted police who started urgent searches for the teen but she was discovered at 10.30am by a passer-by, hanged in woodland.

Her schoolbag and mobile phone were found by her side. A post mortem later confirmed the cause of death of hanging, adding that she had no alcohol or drugs in her blood.

In a statement which was read to the inquest, Shaun Fenton, headteacher of Pate's Grammar School, paid tribute to the Year 13 student, who was studying Spanish, French and Chemistry.

He said: "She was mature, reliable, responsible, brilliant, exceptional and modest.

"She was on target to achieve three A* grades at A-Level."

Melissa was set to complete a gap year at a Christian school in Chile before taking up a place at York University, studying environmental chemistry.

The inquest, expected to last two days, continues.

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