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23 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020

Doctor jumped his death while battling mental health problems

A GP with two young children jumped off a bridge to his death because he felt unable to talk about his own mental health problems for fear of losing his job.

Dr Miles Christie, 43, felt he had let his family down before he walked onto a bridge in north London, climbed over the railings and leaped to his death.

He had been working flat-out at two GP surgeries and had been incorrectly told he owed £48,000 – when he only owed £3,000, an inquest heard today.

Dr Christie had been to see a psychiatrist with his father but had denied being suicidal, the coroner was told.

Shocked onlookers watched in horror as he fell, before paramedics battled to save his life on May 14 last year.

He left behind his 40-year-old wife Juliette Stern and their two children, aged just three and five.

Dr Miles Christie (pictured), 43, felt he had let his family down before he walked onto a bridge in north London, climbed over the railings and leaped to his death

Ms Stern, an animated film producer, told the hearing she had been married to Dr Christie for six years. 

In an emotional statement read aloud at the hearing, she said: ‘He was a hugely charismatic, kind, positive and gentle soul.

‘He was adventurous and had a genuine interest in life and in people. He had the ability to engage with people from all walks of life.

‘It is very difficult to come to terms with how someone can unravel like this.’

The inquest heard that on the day of his death Dr Christie had planned to go swimming with his brother and left his home in Muswell Hill, north London, with his swimwear in his pocket.

He was later seen pacing on the bridge at around 3.30pm wearing a blue T-shirt and jeans, before climbing onto the railings and jumping to his death.

The inquest was told he had struggled with work-life balance while caring for patients at two separate practices, and feeling increasingly anxious about financial pressures.

Dr Christie worked day and night at the Burnley Medical Practice NHS surgery in Willesden, north west London, and at the private Knightsbridge Doctors in west London which he planned to move to full-time, the hearing was told.

But after resigning from his position as an NHS practitioner, he became increasingly anxious and expressed concerns about the contract and overhead costs related to taking over the Knightsbridge practice.

He began working longer hours and lost just over a stone in weight.

In the days leading up to his death, he was also sent five invoices mistakenly informing him he owed money to cover a gap in his Medical Protection Society (MPS) membership, totalling around £48,000 – despite only owing £3,000.

The global organisation offers protection for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals and helps them to understand and navigate the challenges of modern practice.

A fellow young doctor at the the Knightsbridge practice spoke often with Dr Christie who said he had been suffering from headaches, poor sleep and night sweats which appeared to be due to anxiety.

Dr Christie was accompanied by his father Dr Peter Christie, a retired paediatrician, to see a psychiatrist days before his death.

But he denied having suicidal thoughts because of his two young children, when speaking with a psychiatrist two days prior to his death on May 14.

Coroner Mary Hassell concluded that Dr Christie had taken his own life.

Several friends, relatives and colleagues left the inquest in tears.

Summing up, the coroner said: ‘He was an excellent doctor. He was very in demand. He had quite obviously a tremendously loving family and everyone wanted to help him out.’

She said she believed Dr Christie ‘could not see the wood for the trees’ after becoming so ‘poorly’ with his mental health.

The coroner added: ‘There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he did take his own life.

‘I don’t think that the money worries or the work worries or any of the worries explain why.’   

Speaking afterwards, Dr Christie’s widow, Juliette, says more needs to be done to support medical professionals who are reluctant to seek help for their mental health for fear it could go on their record and prohibit them from practicing.

She said: ‘Suicide is far more prevalent in the medical profession generally.

‘We need to understand why this might be and getting them support rather than being concerned with their ability to practice.’

Describing her husband, she added: ‘He was deeply concerned about a mental health diagnosis going on his record and affecting his ability to work.’

 Speaking after the hearing, Dr Christie’s brother told of the stigma surrounding doctors and mental health.

Phil Christie, 39, said: ‘There is a stigma surrounding doctors and mental health.

‘As people become more aware of mental health in society, we have got to become more aware of the people who are taking care of us.

‘Who are looking after the people who take care of us? They are working in very tense environments and they are not mental health themselves.’

 A Memorial Fund in Dr Christie’s name has already raised more than £34,000 to support his widow and their two young children.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details. 

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