herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

'I'm leaving today, I'm a bit scared' - Elaine's final note to hospital staff

Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara

ELAINE O'Hara composed a final handwritten note of thanks to the staff of the mental health hospital before she left and later disappeared.

The brief note was shown to the jury in the trial after they heard hours of evidence read from her medical records.

The records included notes from her final stay at St Edmundsbury Hospital, Lucan between July 14 and August 22, 2012.

She had been a voluntary patient there.

The note was penned by Ms O'Hara on the day of her discharge.

"I'm leaving today (Wednesday) I am a bit scared and I know this is natural," she wrote.

DISCHARGEd

"I want to take the opportunity to thank the caterers, the cleaners, nurses and of course doctors. Thank you, Elaine."

Dr Matt Murphy noted underneath that she was happy to be discharged but nervous.

Questioned by defence barrister Ronan Kennedy, Dr Murphy agreed that the immediate period after discharge was seen as a higher risk period for self-harm or suicide.

"The immediate risk was low and the correct decision was to discharge to forge an independent existence. The commonly-held view in hospital was that she was making ground," he said.

Sean Guerin SC (above), prosecuting, asked Dr Murphy what he had seen as the level of risk for Ms O'Hara given the arrangements she had discussed with him after her discharge, including work and her involvement in the Tall Ships festival.

"From a clinical point of view, I would have been very hopeful about at least the immediate future," he said, adding that this was despite knowing that her mood could shift.

"I would have been surprised if she had slipped back in mood terms suddenly and I would have been surprised and saddened if she hadn't turned back to us for help, if that had happened."

In a care review plan, on August 15, Ms O'Hara was noted as saying: "Things seem to be improving." She said she was leaving the following week but was not sure she trusted herself. She was "kind of scared" to be alone in her apartment.

Dr Murphy explained that showed Ms O'Hara "is worried about going home at the weekend but understands it is a step she needs to take."

Asked if the hospital was "essentially a comfort blanket," Dr Murphy said: "I suppose so" and explained that while she was getting extra support, the downside was that "she can't live in the hospital forever".

A discharge summary from October 2012 noted she was "calm, relaxed, no active suicidal thoughts or plans" and no psychosis.

hnews@herald.ie

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