Ashley Smith died in a Kitchener prison in October 2007 after she tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards, who were ordered not to intervene, watched. (Courtesy of Ashley Smith's family)

Ashley Smith's inclination to tie ligatures did not come from a desire to actually cause herself harm, a psychologist testified at the inquest into her death on Monday.

Dr. Olajide Adelugba, who treated the Moncton teenager during her stay at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, said Smith told him hurting herself "made her feel better."

"She was saying at that time she was not intending to self-harm," said Adelugba, the clinical director.

Smith was 19 when she died at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007, after she tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards, who were ordered not to intervene, stood outside her cell door and watched.

Jurors have heard during several months of testimony that Smith engaged in self-harm.

But Adelugba contends Smith never saw her behaviour as being dangerous and potentially deadly.

"It appeared she derived pleasure from her behaviour," he said. "She mentioned to me, quote: 'I may decide to be bad anytime.'"

Smith was easily bored and since her behaviour deprived her of privileges such as magazines and writing utensils, she quickly figured out how to get the attention of the staff around her, said Adelugba.

"If she covered her camera, then things happened and everybody would be doing something," he said.

Serious mental illness

Adelugba believes Smith had a serious mental illness.

"Number 1, the hallmark of a mental illness is that a patient is not able to function in such a way that would be expected of anybody," he said.

"The illness she had was significantly impairing on her interpersonal relationships and her psychosocial function."

Smith was undergoing intensive psychiatric treatment at the centre for women, which is reserved for patients who are deeply disturbed, said Adelugba.

She had voluntarily consented to be transferred to the Saskatoon facility for treatment while at the Nova Institution in Nova Scotia.

She was then transferred out of the Saskatoon facility in early 2007, shortly after a supervising guard was charged with assaulting her. She died in October of that year.

The inquest, which started on Jan. 14, has heard testimony from Smith's mother, several guards and a prison supervisor who said they were uncomfortable with orders to ignore Smith and not enter her cell to remove ligatures around her neck as long as she was breathing.

Smith was first incarcerated at age 15.