Published: 25 May, 2012
by WILLIAM McLENNAN
A TV executive took a fatal overdose of opiates just hours after walking out of a residential mental health centre in Islington, an inquest heard.
Sarah Mulvey, 34, who was struggling with depression, anxiety and severe stress, left Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre, off Holloway Road, following an argument with staff, her father told St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Tuesday.
Ms Mulvey worked as a commissioning editor for Channel 4 and was responsible for hit reality-TV shows including How To Look Good Naked and the Cutting Edge series.
Dr Christopher Mulvey, a university lecturer, told the court: “She was very vociferous. I heard good evidence that Sarah slammed the door on one member of staff’s finger.”
Ms Mulvey was found dead at her home in Well Walk, Hampstead the following day in January 2010 after she failed to turn up for an appointment.
Dr Anne Bird, a consultant psychiatrist for Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust, said there was no disruption on the morning Ms Mulvey left Drayton Park.
She said: “I was there that morning; there wasn’t any slamming of doors. There was not any shouting or screaming.”
But she told the inquest there had been a row with staff the night before during which Ms Mulvey had been “verbally aggressive” towards staff and packed her bags to leave.
Questions were raised over the lack of communication between mental health workers under the Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust.
Dr Mulvey told the court that Drayton Park should have done more to inform his daughter’s GP and psychologist that she was leaving.
He said: “Sarah was known to be in a suicidal mood. There were so many opportunities to help her at this point, and they were not taken.”
Drayton Park changed their management plan following Ms Mulvey’s death so they can protect women who leave in a “distressed, but planned way”.
Ms Mulvey had suffered from depression since the age of five and had made three suicide attempts, the court heard.
She took various medications to control depression and anti-psychotics to control flashbacks of a traumatic event in her life. She also claimed to experience a “disassociated state” where she seemed detached from reality and was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Bird said that the lack of control during this childhood trauma had left Ms Mulvey with a desire to always be in complete control, including of her medication and treatment.
She added that a lack of control Ms Mulvey experienced when she brought a grievance procedure against her employer was extremely distressing for her.
Dr Luigi Carparotto, a psychotherapist with Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust, said several other factors added to the pressure on Ms Mulvey.
He said: “She was deeply preoccupied with her grievance case (against Channel 4) and she was worried she couldn’t pay the fees for the solicitor and she couldn’t pay the fees for the psychotherapist. She was extremely worried.”
Coroner Shirley Radcliffe recorded a narrative verdict.
Ms Mulvey brought a grievance procedure against her employers in 2009 but it was not upheld.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “Since Sarah’s tragic death in January 2010 we have worked closely with the Mulvey family to support them and to celebrate Sarah’s career and achievements. She was a valued employee and an exceptional creative talent.”