Depressed psychiatrist received “poor care” — (BBC NEWS)

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BBC NEWS

Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK

The deaths of a depressed psychiatrist and her baby daughter could have been prevented, says a new report.

Dr Daksha Emson stabbed three-month-old Freya and then herself in October 2000, before setting them alight.

The baby died of smoke inhalation.

Dr Emson, who was diagnosed with manic depression, survived for three weeks in a burns unit before dying – without regaining consciousness.

The psychiatrist, aged 34 at the time of her death, received a “significantly poorer standard of care than that which her own patients might have expected”, said an inquiry into the deaths by North East London Strategic Health Authority (SHA).

Its report made recommendations for mental health services on a national level, including the need to tackle the “organisation culture of secrecy and taboo” surrounding mental illness.

The Department of Health said it would be considering the findings of the inquiry to help push forward with efforts to improve mental health services.

Dr Emson, who lived in Newham, was diagnosed with depression after attempting suicide as an 18-year-old medical student.

The diagnosis was changed to bipolar affective disorder, (commonly known as manic depression) but she continued with her studies and emerged as an outstanding student.

Her illness was controlled using lithium carbonate and Prozac.

Anti-depressants

She started work towards becoming a consultant psychiatrist but during her training she went to “considerable lengths” to conceal her illness from her supervisors.

Dr Emson feared that the widespread stigma against mental illness in the NHS would damage her career prospects.

“She did not conceal her mental illness history from Occupational Health Services but received no help, support or advice from them,” the report noted.

Dr Emson gave birth to Freya in July 2000 but despite bonding with her baby, she suffered from depression after coming off anti-depressants.

The SHA’s report concluded that her treatment highlighted the enduring stigma of mental illness among NHS employees.

The report said that institutional racism and sexism of a male-dominated profession such as psychiatry “would have been an additional burden for her and potentially a barrier to career progression.”