‘One of the loveliest people I ever knew’: Suicide tragedy of the Manchester Royal Infirmary nurse who struggled with self doubt

To view original article click here

Manchester Evening News

By Amy Walker

06:55, 25 SEP 2018   Updated 08:23, 25 SEP 2018

An inquest was told that dedicated Clara Malagon hit a ‘low ebb’ weeks after treating young victims of the Manchester Arena attack

A newly-qualified nurse who had a promising career ahead of her took her own life after struggling with depression and self doubt, an inquest heard.

Clara Malagon, 22, described by her father as a ‘dedicated, fantastic woman’, was found hanged by her friend at their flat in Manchester city centre in July, last year.

Miss Malagon had suffered low moods and had been prescribed anti-depressants during her degree in nursing at the University of Manchester, but qualified as a critical care nurse in 2016 and took a job at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The coroner said it remains unknown why she killed herself.

She had been on-duty on the night of the Manchester Arena terror attack several weeks and had seen first-hand some of the young victims and their horrific injuries.

Miss Malagon successfully underwent counselling and had a detailed debrief about the bombing with senior doctors – but her mental health issues returned and in July last year, several weeks after the attack, she took her own life.

Recording a conclusion of suicide at a hearing in Manchester on Monday, Coroner Andrew Bridgman said: “(Clara) was on medication for around 6-7 months, to which she came off it and appeared to be fine.

“However this resurfaces towards mid June 2017 – three to four weeks following the Manchester Arena tragedy when she was on duty. It clearly had some effect on her however I have had a discussion with her father, and there was no specific reference to the trauma of the events of that night.”

“She sought therapy and she did take private counselling, and found this helped her. Clara did intend to take her life but this inquest cannot answer why.

”There appears to be no reason and no evidence as to why Clara had depression and was in a low ebb when she wished to take her own life. She had been supported by her father, her family and her friends. It’s a real tragedy.”

The inquest heard how Miss Malagon, from Twickenham, London, was a keen rower and enjoyed cycling, running and walking, and also played the viola and took up ballet and flamenco dancing. But she also suffered bouts of depression and self doubt and had been prescribed the antidepressant Citalopram in 2016.

Her Spanish father, Dr Ignacio Malagon, a consultant anaesthetist at Wythenshawe Hospital, wept as he told the Manchester hearing: ”She was physically quite tough but she was seeing her GP for mental health issues – we talked about it regularly.

“She was good at taking instructions from her GP and we talked about counselling. Out of the blue she started crying at university, she would come to me but I couldn’t give her professional advice so I advised her to go and talk to someone. She went to counselling organised by university – everything was going well so she came off the medication.

“But in January last year she started crying again, and she said to me ‘Dad, I need help’.

“After she had been to the GP and she was told it was going to be three months before she was going to get any counselling, she said she couldn’t wait for three months and said she wanted to go private.

“She found one counsellor but she didn’t like them. We were talking about money and I offered to help her out. I gave her some money to pay for the first few sessions and she found one she did like. She was able to organise the counselling herself. She said she was happy with the lady she found.”

He added: ”Clara was a staff nurse but she had done a training course in intensive care. She was on duty in May last year during the Arena attack. It was traumatic for her and I rang her, I was in hospital too, and I said to her: “Are you okay?” And she said: “Yeah Dad, it’s really tough, I’ve seen some of the kids didn’t make it.”

“She said some (of the victims) didn’t make it from A&E.

“We had a long chat and I said to her that I realise this is very traumatic for her and if she was upset then she should tell her seniors, or if she felt unwell she should tell her managers. I just said to her not to worry and that it was going to be fine.

“A few days after there was a debriefing provided by the MRI. She rang me afterwards and said there had been 50 people there including her seniors and management. Everyone there told how wonderful the team had worked and she was delighted.

“We talked on a regular basis, either over a glass of wine or dinner. If she had an issue she would talk about it to me in a professional manner if it was to do with work. I was involved if she wanted to talk about anything.

“She would tell me about the patients she helped, she never said she felt understaffed or overworked. She shared everything with me. I had a very good relationship with my daughter.

“For example, she had one patient who had hallucinations, and delirium. She rang me, she was worried about it and seemed stressed. I spoke to her and told her to speak to her senior manager and she said to me: “Thanks Dad, I feel much more relaxed, thank you.”

Miss Malagon’s flatmate Grace Callaghan, who found her friend on her return home from work, said: “She had said to me she was feeling low and she made an appointment with her doctor to prescribe some more antidepressants.

“But that weekend we said we would have to have a curry night as we had not seen each other properly. She was one of the loveliest people I ever knew – on the night before there wasn’t any concern about her.”

GP Dr Gill Aitken said Miss Malagon had been prescribed Citalopram, but in September 2016 she came off it and finished her nursing degree. In a statement, Dr Aitken said: ”She came back to me and said she was feeling low and crying, and feeling apathetic. Whilst there was no trigger, I believe this was work related.

“She was anxious about work, she had her own self doubt and confidence issues and she said she wasn’t sleeping. But she denied any suicidal thoughts. She said she wanted some medication and I suggested a review in two weeks time, which she did.

“She said she had been back to Spain for a few weeks but she felt upset and felt guilty for not being a happy person to be around at the time. She had contacted a Manchester self help group.

“I asked if there were any issues at work and she said there had been some complex patients. She said she had no suicidal thoughts. She told me her family were a strong protective factor for her. I told her who to contact if she felt in crisis and said if she needed anything she could make an emergency appointment with the team.”

Police examined Miss Malagon’s iPad and laptop but found no evidence she would take her own life – with one message to a friend in a social media chat saying she had a successful counselling session.

Coroner Andrew Bridgman said: “Clara had her full professional life ahead of her. Her father has told me that she was a fit and active young woman who had lots of hobbies. But it is clear from the evidence that she had mental health issues from around 2016 which correspond with her final year of her degree.”

Speaking after the inquest, Dr Malagon, Clara’s father, said: “She was a beautiful girl and fantastic woman. She was extremely dedicated to her work and her job.

“She was a wonderful daughter and a wonderful friend. We actually received a handwritten letter from the Mayor Andy Burnham expressing his sympathies. We both worked for the NHS and we are all very proud of her.

“More than 6,000 people commit suicide each year, they have something that is a sign in their background that made them think about it. Some of them are 22-year-old people – think how much they could do over their lifetimes and how they felt that they could not continue to sadly be saved.”