London - A young nurse killed herself just weeks after being traumatised by treating horrifically injured child victims of the Manchester Arena bomb attack.
Clara Malagon, 22, had been on duty the night of the atrocity which claimed 22 lives in May last year and witnessed first-hand the unimaginable tragedy of children who could not be saved.
After a debrief about the bombing involving senior colleagues she told her Spanish doctor father she felt well-supported. But in July last year – seven weeks after suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made device – Miss Malagon was found hanged at her apartment in Manchester city centre.
Although an inquest was unable to establish why she killed herself it emerged she had a history of depression and had been prescribed medication before the attack.
Miss Malagon, from Twickenham, South-West London, completed a degree in nursing at Manchester University and became a critical care nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary in 2016. She was a keen rower and enjoyed cycling and also played the viola. But the nurse suffered bouts of depression and had been prescribed the antidepressant citalopram.
Her father, Dr Ignacio Malagon, a consultant anaesthetist at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, wept as he told the city inquest his daughter was ‘physically quite tough’ but had been open about her mental health issues.
‘Out of the blue she started crying at university, she would come to me but I couldn’t give her professional advice so I advised her to go and talk to someone,’ he said.
‘She went to counselling organised by the university – everything was going well so she came off the medication. But in January last year, she started crying again and she said to me, “Dad, I need help”.’
Dr Malagon said his daughter was told there was a three-month wait for counselling on the NHS, but needed help sooner so decided to go private instead.
Dr Malagon was himself on duty in the aftermath of the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert and spoke to her that night as medics battled to save lives in intensive care. ‘It was traumatic for her and I rang her, I was in hospital too, and I said to her: “Are you OK?”
‘And she said: “Yeah Dad, it’s really tough, I’ve seen some of the kids didn’t make it.”
Dr Malagon said the hospital provided a debriefing for staff a few days later. ‘Everyone there told how wonderful the team had worked and she was delighted.’
He said they continued to speak regularly over the next few weeks and there was nothing to suggest she was struggling.
Her GP, Dr Gill Aitken, said in a statement Miss Malagon had complained of feeling ‘low’ when she went to see her in June. ‘Whilst there was no trigger, I believe this was work-related,’ she said. ‘She was anxious about work, she had her own self-doubt and confidence issues.’ However, Miss Malagon had insisted to the doctor she wasn’t feeling suicidal.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Andrew Bridgman said Miss Malagon’s mental health problems ‘resurfaced’ after the bombing. ‘It clearly had some effect on her, however, I have had a discussion with her father, and there was no specific reference to the trauma of the events of that night. Clara did intend to take her life but this inquest cannot answer why.’