University of York student, 23, who believed she was responsible for Covid-19 jumped into River Ouse after being discharged from mental hospital

A gifted postgraduate student threw herself to her death in the fast-flowing River Ouse within just over half an hour of being discharged from a mental health facility, an inquest heard.

Emily Miller, 23, jumped from Lendal Bridge into the River Ouse

University of York graduate Emily Miller, 23, who had completed a Masters and was studying for a PhD, jumped off Lendal Bridge in the centre of the city to the horror of passers-by in October last year.

A little over half an hour earlier she had "stormed out" of Foss Park Hospital, a new 72-bed mental health unit in York, angry that she was not being admitted for longer.

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Miss Miller's parents Hilary and David Dick, of Stockport, attended the hearing at County Hall, Northallerton, via video link and questioned whether she would have died had she been kept in hospital.

Although academically talented, Miss Miller had struggled with mental health difficulties since the age of 10 when she first came under the care of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The inquest was told that her treatment had been going well until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, when she began to develop a fixation which concerned her doctors.

Miss Miller came to believe that she was responsible for the outbreak of the virus and that only her death would bring it to an end.

She took her own life leaping from Lendal Bridge on October 30 last year into the River Ouse which was in flood and flowing swiftly.

Witnesses who saw her being swept away said she made no attempt to save herself or swim to the river bank, even when it came within reach.

The inquest was told Miss Miller had been admitted to psychiatric establishments in York in April, May and July of 2020, both informally and having been sectioned under the Mental Health act through fear she would harm herself.

On October 27 she was taken to Foss Park having been found sitting on a bridge over the A64 at 7am.

Police officers called to the scene had to physically restrain her and after she'd had time to recover at Fulford Road police station she was taken to Foss Park.

Three days later the decision was taken to allow her to leave.

Matthew Houton, nurse consultant at the unit, told the inquest of the decision.

He said: "Emily was unhappy at leaving hospital. I believe a friend who she had built up a good relationship with was staying in slightly longer and she believed she deserved to stay in for as long as that person.

"At this time she was being more forthright than she had been previously. She was quite hostile and angry at the decision she would be leaving hospital."

Assistant coroner for North Yorks, Jonathan Leach, asked Mr Houton whether there was a medical reason for her to be kept in hospital.

Mr Houton said: "Her suicidal thoughts tended to be chronic throughout but there were no plans or imminent events that we were aware of at this time.

"There is a risk when people present who have done dangerous things that they might go wrong, but at that point there was no definitive plan."

He described Miss Miller as "storming out" of the ward and she was seen to be leaving at around 11.26am.

Mrs Dick asked whether the outcome for her daughter may have been different had the hospital not "discharged her against her will."

However the inquest heard from Alison McGrath, a registered mental health nurse who was lead reviewer in compiling a report into Miss Miller's discharge.

She found there had been "good communication" between the teams involved in her care.

She added: "Emily presented a very significant degree of diagnostic complexity. and uncertainty, however that was very much recognised by our teams."

She concluded the steps taken at the time were right and the decision to discharge her was "with the aim to instill hope in Emily."

However, within a little over half an hour Miss MIller was standing on the wrong side of Lendal Bridge.

Nottingham University student Wiktoria Boguta, who was visiting the city, saw her jump in.

In a statement read to the hearing, she said: "She jumped off the edge of the bridge, it all happened in a few seconds, she did not make any noise."

Miss Boguta said she "did not seem panicked at all" and did not make any attempt to move towards the bank.

She said she saw Miss Miller swept quickly between two river boats and did not see her again.

Her body was found at Naburn on November 26 by Gary Best who was travelling along the Ouse to take his boat for repairs.

Mr and Mrs Dick, the inquest was told, were not aware of the seriousness of Miss Miller's situation.

Mr Leach recorded a verdict of suicide and that Miss MIller, who lived in a shared house on the city's Tang Hall Lane, died as the result of drowning.

He said: "Emily was 23 and a postgraduate student living and working in York.

"She had a loving and supportive family who were unaware of the extent of Emily's mental health issues. They were unaware because Emily had chosen not to share it with them."

He said she had first been referred to CAMHS suffering anxiety aged 10 until she was 15 and had presented herself to her GP in York suffering similar problems in 2017.

On October 30 last year, he said, she left the hospital shortly after 11.30am and went directly to Lendal Bridge where she entered the water.

Mr Leach said: "In this case I am satisfied this was a case of suicide. The reason I am satisfied is that Emily entered the river voluntarily and it would appear from the evidence she took no

opportunity to extract herself from the river even when opportunities arose.

"On that basis my conclusion is suicide."

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, speak to the Samaritans in confidence by calling 116 123.