Trainee paediatrician killed herself after anxiety attack

An engaged junior doctor killed herself after she suffered an anxiety attack during a hospital shift, an inquest heard. 

Sophie Spooner, 26, went back to work and enjoyed a gig with friends the evening before she was found dead by her sister.

The high-achieving doctor, from Brighton, East Sussex, is understood to have suffered an anxiety attack while working in hospital.

But she returned to the flat she shared with her fiance, Jonny Miller, 29, and took an overdose of prescription drugs.

She had been diagnosed with biploar

Sophie Spooner (pictured) suffered an anxiety attack while she was working at Worthing General Hospital 

The trainee paediatrician was found lying on the floor of her bedroom by her older sister Rosie, also a doctor, who visited her after she failed to meet up with her.

She was dressed for bed and had left a suicide note where it could be found.

An inquest in Brighton heard the ‘talented and brave’ doctor had battled with bipolar disorder (BPD) for several years.

She was prone to ‘lightning changes of mood’ which could see her veer from very happy to very depressed in the space of a few hours. 

The inquest was told she was treated for the disorder, as well as depression and anxiety, for several years and regularly took two types of prescription drugs to manage the symptoms.

Dr Spooner had been on a week-long holiday and had just returned to work at Worthing General Hospital, West Sussex, in October last year.  

Sometime that evening she got ready for bed, wrote a note to her family and friends and took a fatal overdose.

Her mother Dr Laurel Spooner, a retired GP from Colchester, Essex, said her daughter had battled with severe mood swings.

She had just returned from a week-long holiday

She was engaged to marry Jonny Miller

Sophie (on the right) returned to the flat in Brighton and took an overdose of prescription drugs and was engaged to Jonny Miller (together, right) 

She told the inquest: ‘She’d been on holiday for a week before this. She was keeping up a good front. Nobody recognised a risk and it was a total shock.’

Brighton coroner, Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, said: ‘Sophie was one of those amazing young women who presented one face to the world and another to herself.’

She said Dr Spooner had possibly been lying on or in her bed but had fallen onto the floor where she was later found.

Ms Hamilton-Deeley found that Dr Spooner had taken her own life with contributing factors being bipolar, depression and anxiety.

Outside court, her parents Dr Richard Spooner and his wife called for more funding for mental health services across the UK.

Dr Laurel Spooner said: ‘Understanding is improving all the time but it is vital services are supported financially to ensure more people receive the treatment they need.

‘Jeremy Hunt has said suicide is preventable – well that is only the case if the money is put forward to support services.’

They paid tribute to their ‘high-achieving’ daughter saying she was a ‘perfectionist’ in everything she did.

In 2016 she took time out of her medical career to embark on a 3,000-mile cycle ride down the Pacific coast, starting in Vancouver, Canada, and arriving months later in Los Angeles, California.

Boyfriend Jonny Miller paid tribute to her online saying: ‘Sophie was a beautiful, radiant, bursting-at-the-seams-with-life human, with a mischievous grin and luminous presence which lit up any room.

The trainee paediatrician was found lying on the floor of her bedroom by her older sister

The trainee paediatrician was found lying on the floor of her bedroom by her older sister

‘She instantly won over my friends and family with her witty ways and disarmingly charming Sophie Spooner mannerisms.’

He wrote on Facebook last year: ‘After having a anxiety-induced panic attack at work Sophie returned to our home and took her own life. 

‘She had been diagnosed with bipolar many years ago, but even so this came as a shock to everyone who knew her.’

Her brother Adam is running 12 half marathons in 12 months to raise money for the mental health charity MIND.

On his fundraising page he said: ‘She was a star in my life and so many lives. It’s hard to do her justice in words. Sophie loved exercise, being in outdoors and sharing her experiences with those she cared about.

‘The downswings brought by bipolar affected her and caused her great suffering. 

‘Yet, she was determined to make the most of life and deal with this difficult condition. She had loads of energy and creativity. She brought happiness and meaning to her many friends and her family.’

He added: ‘She developed rapid cycling mood swings last year. These distorted her perception of herself and reality. Eventually one of these had, within a matter of hours, completely overwhelmed her.’

Bipolar disorder affects 1 to 2 per cent of the population in the UK and is a leading cause of suicide among young people.

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