A much loved 18-year-old Devon chef tragically ended his life just two months after a hospital admission following an overdose.

Jake McPhail had been engaging with mental health services and his GP when he failed to return home from work following an evening shift at the SQ Bar and Restaurant in Braunton.

An inquest at Exeter’s County Hall this week heard he was found along the Tarka Trail close to a footbridge by a church pastor who had been on his way to work at around 6.30am on July 28, 2019, and was unable to be revived.

Jake’s father Bernard told in a statement how the former Southmead Primary School and Braunton Academy pupil had just finished his chef apprenticeship before he died, and had enjoyed working for the past four years at the restaurant.

18-year-old Jake McPhail whose body was found on the Tarka Trail in Braunton on Sunday

Mr McPhail told how Jake’s biggest hobbies were football and playing computer games, and that although his two closest friends were head chefs at SQ Bar and Restaurant, he spent a lot of time on his own.

He recalled how as Jake grew older, his family noticed he was having trouble with his mental health. At the age of 16 he took an overdose and immediately told his parents what he had done.

Jake was referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services(CAMHS), but chose not to pursue their help.

His mental health took a significant turn for the worse in May 2019 following relationship problems with a girl who he later told he was planning to end his life.

He denied it when questioned by his parents, but was seen to be self-harming.

On June 8, Jake told a close friend he wanted to die and that he had taken an overdose.

He was taken to A&E and was discharged 12 hours later following a psychiatric assessment.

Steve White, a senior mental health practitioner who carried it out, told the inquest that Jake admitted he had been self-harming for a couple of years and that he did not take rejection very well.

Jake was diagnosed as being moderately depressed, and was referred to Devon Partnership Trust’s (DPT) Overdose and Self Injury Service (OASIS), and was referred to his GP.

Mr White said he did not think he would have benefited from a psychiatric unit admission as it seemed to have been an impulsive overdose, and said: “I did not feel he was a high risk of suicide because he had a loving supportive family and saw them as good protective factor, the fact he was still working, and still forward planning.

“I did not feel like he would go out and do this again.”

Hundreds line the street to celebrate the life of Jake McPhail and show their support for mental health
Hundreds line the street to celebrate the life of Jake McPhail and show their support for mental health in 2019

His parents told how they felt they felt he should have been sectioned under the mental health act.

Jake was prescribed anti-depressants and took part in normal life such as working, enjoying a family holiday in Tenerife and had begun speaking to a new girl he had met online.

Shortly before his death their relationship ended which Mr McPhail said he ‘took badly’.

He said: “I kept asking how he was feeling, and asked if he was suicidal, but he kept saying he was fine.”

A work colleague and close friend told how after he left work on July 27 at 10.30pm, Jake had seemed back to his old self and in good spirits.

His medical notes revealed Jake had been accepting of help, and had received it in a timely manner, with more follow-up appointments scheduled.

Jake’s GP George Hunton said he had not noticed a deterioration in his mental health following his last hospital admission, but instead a ‘fluctuation’.

Referring to their last consultation two days before his death he said: “He was doing better and was showing signs he was engaging with the help being provided.”

He added:“Each time I met him he said had no plans to harm or hurt himself.”

The inquest heard he had been provided with contact details for the crisis team and the Samaritans, and the family thanked the doctor for all the help he gave Jake.

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of his death was hanging.

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Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Philip Spinney said: “Plainly something happened to trigger a deterioration in his mental health between July 26 and 28 to make him take the actions he did.”

He concluded: “Taking the evidence as a whole, I am satisfied the evidence supports the conclusion he took his own life and intended to do so.”

Referring to the recent completion of a root cause analysis report conducted by DPT, he said: “I would like to see the report and will take any action I consider necessary.

“I will write to DPT and identify an issue that became apparent about [ a lack of] access to notes from CAMHS and accessibility of those notes is something I will bring to their attention.”

Following his death, tributes were paid to Jake.

SQ bar and restaurant in Braunton, where the hit and run occurred
SQ bar and restaurant in Braunton,

Olly Seymour, owner of SQ Bar and Restaurant, said he and the other staff were absolutely devastated by the news.

In a post on the business’ page, Olly said: “It is with great sadness that I write this to let you know that our friend, colleague and all-round wonderful young man and talented chef, Jake McPhail, has sadly passed away on Sunday, July 28.

“Words cannot describe the feeling that my staff and I are feeling but please be understanding with us if we do not seem quite ourselves in the next few days and weeks.

“Jake was a much loved son, brother and grandson whom I was very proud of, having overseen his development since he began working at SQ since he was 15.

“He will be dearly missed by me and all at SQ.

“Jake has now found his peace but has left a huge void in his absence which will never be filled. Rest in Peace Jake.”

The Samaritans can be reached round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call them on the phone. You can reach them by calling 116 123, by emailing jo@samaritans.org or by visiting www.samaritans.org

Local help is also available from Devon-based charity Andy’s Man Club. It has four groups across Devon with a mission to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in men.





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