Trans

Trans teen who died by suicide was turned away by urgent mental health care services

Vic Parsons February 22, 2022
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A trans teen died by suicide while waiting to access mental health care and a first appointment at a gender identity clinic, with a coroner warning that future deaths are possible unless action is taken.

Daniel France, a 17-year-old teenager from Cambridgeshire, killed himself during the first coronavirus lockdown in April 2020 while taking medication to treat depression.

He was trans, and had been referred to an NHS gender clinic – but, like thousands of others, faced several years of waiting before he would be called for his first appointment.

France, described as “extremely kind” and someone who had “many friends” by a local LGBT+ group, also had a history of suicide attempts, said  coroner Philip Barlow.

In a report to “prevent future deaths” following an inquest into France’s suicide, Barlow told local agencies to address the delays in accessing mental health services for young adults, and noted concerns around the waiting times for NHS gender clinics.

“Danny was a vulnerable teenager,” Barlow wrote in his coroners report, adding that two separate safeguarding referrals to Cambridgeshire County Council about France had been “incorrectly” closed.

According to the report, France sought counselling from the NHS’ Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, but was deemed too high risk. When he was assessed by Cambridge’s First Response Service, which supports people experiencing a mental health crisis, it was decided he did not ‘require urgent intervention’. He had been referred to adult mental health services, having previously been under a young person’s service, but was still awaiting assessment.

The coroner noted that France “was repeatedly assessed as not meeting the criteria for urgent intervention” and that the “waiting list for psychological therapy was likely to be over a year from point of first presentation”.

The inquest also heard “evidence about the considerable delay in obtaining appointments for the Gender Identity Clinic, and about the shortage of availability for psychological therapies such as CBT”.

Barlow warned: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken.”

A copy of Barlow’s coroners report has been sent to NHS England and the secretary of state for health, Sajid Javid “for information purposes only”. The local council and NHS trust have been given 56 days to respond to Barlow’s concerns on mental health care provision

The Kite Trust, a local charity that runs support groups for young LGBT+ people that France attended, warned about the “hostile society” that trans people, and especially young trans people, currently face in the UK.

“What Danny faced, and what trans people of all ages continue to face, is a society that is hostile to our very existence,” said Pip Gardner, chief executive of The Kite Trust, in an emailed statement. “Using the wrong name or pronouns for a trans person, is not just a spelling mistake – it causes emotional harm and breaks down trust.”

They continued: “The responsibility must be on those with statutory duties and in positions to safeguard young people’s welfare, especially crisis services, to take immediate action to ensure that other trans young people like Danny can access the care they are entitled to, without having to endure such harms.”

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

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