Teen took his own life while on waiting list for help

PUBLISHED: 13:21 10 May 2017

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An inquest heard how teenager Solly Betts, from Exmouth, took his own life while he was waiting to be seen by mental health experts. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) deemed him a routine case, though Solly spoke about his thoughts of suicide.

A teenage boy who killed himself while waiting to be assessed by mental health experts was not thought to be an urgent case, an inquest has heard.

Solly Betts, aged 17, of Green Close, Exmouth, died while waiting for an appointment to see the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). He was deemed non urgent and a routine case.

In the weeks leading up to Solly’s death, the teenager spoke about his thoughts of suicide, prompting his GP to refer him for expert help.

An initial screening process by two CAMHS clinicians put the teenager on an eight-week wait list to be seen instead of offering an urgent appointment within two weeks.

Solly was found dead at home by his family in the early hours of the morning on July 13, 2016.

Exeter and Greater Devon assistant coroner, Lydia Brown ruled the cause of death as hanging, concluding an open verdict.

She said could not be certain Solly had intended to kill himself at that time.

She said: “I am not suggesting I believe it was an accident; Solly had a ligature around his neck. He was clearly contemplating matters.

“I don’t believe it was a cry for help. He wouldn’t have known that once that ligature was in place there was no time to change one’s mind.”

She added: “I don’t know what was in Solly’s mind. He was waiting for assessment for CAMHS. He didn’t get that assistance; we don’t know what assistance they would have offered, but there was enough concern for that referral to take place.”

The inquest was told no appointment date was ever sent prior to Solly’s death.

Bicton College military academy student Solly spent the hours before he died chatting to an online gaming pal. The teenager sent his friend a link to a song, which police said ‘intimated suicide and having enough of life’.

His friend tried to reassure Solly he wasn’t a loser and that he was there for him. They went on to discuss troublesome teen life and liking people.

During the conversations, which lasted several hours, Solly made references to ending his life, telling his friend ‘I don’t know if I should do it; I don’t know whether I want to do it, should I do it?’.

Weeks before his death, he spoke about suicide to his college tutor Scott Todd, prompting regular welfare meetings with the teenager.

And Solly’s mum, Tilly Howe, contacted the college when her son began isolating himself.

Mr Todd told the inquest how ‘alarm bells rang’ when Solly talked about suicide in the third person.

“He never referred to himself. He said ‘do you think someone is ill or sick if they commit suicide?’

“I queried ‘are you feeling that way?’ he didn’t admit it; he would probably see that as a weakness. He was very hard on himself, unnecessarily so.”

In May 2016 Solly’s GP referred him to CAMHS, assessing him with bi-polar disorder, episodes of feeling very low and suicidal intent. He was concerned the teenager would ‘possibly do something compulsive’ when Solly confided he thought about hanging himself or stepping off a cliff, the GP said his mind could fluctuate ‘quite quickly’.

Solly’s family said the teenager was prone to aggression and suggested anger management in the years before he died.

The night he died, the teenager argued with step-dad Kevin Howe over Solly’s part-time cleaning job with the family business.

The teen ‘blew up angry’, but ‘took it on the chin’, when Mr Howe said Solly could not ‘pick and choose’ when he wanted to work.

Mr and Mrs Howe told Solly they loved him and went to bed shortly after, leaving the teenager on his Playstation.

Mr Howe said he heard ‘quite a lot of noise’ in the night when he got up to use the loo but did not investigate because ‘of what happened earlier’, adding ‘I didn’t want anymore discussion with him’.

At around 6.30am, Solly was found dead by his mother and step-father; he was wearing headphones attached to a tablet.

Solly’s step-dad and father tried CPR to revive the teenager but he was pronounced dead at the scene by medics.

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