Mum tells inquest she was struggling to look after son before he took own life on mental health ward

Mel Barham reports from the first day of the inquest into the death of Charlie Millers


Psychologists treating a 17-year-old on a mental health unit expressed concerns his inpatient admission was "escalating his risk" and not helping it, an inquest has heard.

Charlie Millers, 17, died five days after being found unresponsive in his room at Prestwich Hospital as a result of self-inflicted injuries on 2 December 2020.

He was an inpatient on Pegasus Ward and is one of three young people to die at the hospital in less than a year.

His inquest, at Rochdale Coroners Court, heard from one of the clinical psychologists at Junction17, or J17 - the inpatient ward that Charlie was on.

She said during a staff meeting on the ward it was felt his inpatient admission was harmful for Charlie and was actually escalating his risk and agitation.

Breaking down in tears, she also told the court she feared Charlie would die because of his "risky way" of coping with trauma.

During a session with Charlie he had told her he was hearing voices in his head that were telling him to harm himself, and said he also admitted he wanted to die since he was 12, and that he was frustrated that he was unsuccessful in ending his life.

She also admitted that they were short staffed at the time

Charlie's mother, Samantha Millers said she asked for support for her son and expected him to be looked after Credit: MEN Media

At the beginning of the inquest Charlie's mum, Sam Millers, said her son, who was transgender, had a long history of mental health issues and regularly self-harmed.

He was sectioned various times, was known to social services and by 2020 he was in a cycle of self harming behaviour which had seen him in and out of J17.

She said he had a 'very difficult' lockdown during the Covid pandemic - and while she wanted to keep Charlie at home - she was struggling to cope and had asked social services for help, particularly overnight when she needed to sleep.

She described her frustration with the care he was receiving and said it was increasingly difficult to look after him at home and make sure he was safe.

But, she said, he also was not doing well as an inpatient and she believed being in hospital was making his behaviour worse.

Ms Millers also claimed there was a very poor working relationship between social services and Prestwich hospital, with arguments about his care which meant decisions were not made.

Charlie Millers was a patient in a mental health unit at Prestwich Hospital Credit: Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust

Giving evidence she said she had known from an early age that Charlie was a boy.

While he had not started any medication or transitioning to become a boy, he was under the gender identity clinic in Leeds, she said, and they were talking about going through the transition process.

Charlie, from Stretford in Manchester, was a talented artist who loved Morris dancing, football and animals, she said.

His family described him as "an amazing human" with a "smile that affected and melted away a thousand hearts", who made time for others regardless of how much he was struggling.

Charlie had experienced behavioural issues since primary school and mental ill health since the age of 11.

He was diagnosed with ADHD and a paediatrician had suggested he may be autistic.

Charlie Millers was being treated at a mental health unit at Prestwich Hospital Credit: Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust

One of the questions the inquest jury will need to answer is if Charlie meant to take his own life.

His mum told the court she had had a conversation with him before his death where he had said he was not doing it because he wanted to end his life, it was just his way of self-harming.

He told her his thinking was that if he did it on the mental health unit they would find him in time, she added.

The inquest will also examine the circumstances and care provided by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Trafford Borough Council and five other Interested Persons.

He was one of three young people to die at the hospital, run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), in less than a year.

Rowan Thompson, 18, died in October 2020 and Ania Sohail, 21, died in June 2021 whilst on the same ward.

The inquest is expected to last three weeks.


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