Raising Awareness Of Mental Health Issues For World Suicide Prevention Day
The partner of a Cambridge man found dead in his home is raising awareness of mental health issues as she speaks out on the struggles that led her partner to take his own life.
Father-of-two Alan W was 49 when he was discovered dead in his house in September 2013, having committed suicide. He had been suffering from low mood for several months, and had a history of anxiety.
Alan had been known to mental health services under the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and had spent time in hospital in June 2013 for depression and suicidal thoughts. He was discharged after five days.
He died less than three months later.
Following his death, his fiancée Teresa Barnes instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care Alan had received prior to taking his own life.
Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust admitted various failings, in particular admitting that it had not provided sufficient support at home, which would likely have kept Alan safe. It was also admitted that more frequent reviews, including that of a psychiatrist, should have taken place.
The Trust further admitted that Alan’s mental state and associated risk warranted an increased level of care either by intensive home treatment or admission to hospital. Had these been provided, Alan’s suicide would likely have been avoided.
With World Suicide Prevention Day being held on 10 September, Teresa is now joining with her lawyers in raising awareness of mental health issues.
Expert Opinion“The past few years have been incredibly difficult for Teresa, who is understandably still struggling to come to terms with losing Alan in the way she did.
Through our work we come across many families whose lives are devastated by mental health issues, and suicide has a lasting impact on those affected.
Alan’s sudden death had such a profound effect on his loved ones, and Teresa understandably had concerns over the care he received before he died and whether enough was done to help him with this mental health struggles. Her litigation with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Trust has resulted in their admission that on the balance of probabilities Alan’s death could have been avoided.
It’s vital that lessons are learned from Teresa’s experience so that others don’t have to go through a tragedy like this.”
Chris Hurlston - Senior Associate Solicitor
Prior to his death, Alan worked as a director of a construction company where we had worked for over 20 years. He was a father to a son with special needs now aged 23 and a lively, engaging daughter now aged 19.
His fiancée Teresa said: “It’s been seven years since Alan died and it’s still so painful. He was a loving partner, fun, thoughtful and romantic and a dedicated and conscientious father.
“In the months leading up to his death, Alan was very unwell and getting progressively worse. I found myself having to manage his mental health illness myself as I didn’t feel he was supported enough by professional services.
“I began to feel that my own mental health was at risk. Following Alan’s death, my whole world, my future, my trust in medical opinion and practice was turned upside down and it is still a real struggle to accept that had the NHS Trust behaved differently Alan would most probably be with me now. We had plans to marry and a bright and exciting future ahead of us.
“I know nothing will bring him back to me, but I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the pain I have. I hope that by sharing my story, as part of World Suicide Prevention Day, it can help others that may be in a similar situation.”
World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness campaign held on 10 September every year, providing worldwide commitment and action to preventing suicides.
Despite wedding plans and the prospect of love and a shared future, Alan began to show signs of struggling with his mental health. A GP made a home visit to him on 26 May 2013, where he reported symptoms of anxiety and low mood.
On the advice of the doctor, he saw his regular GP on 30 May. He was diagnosed with a single major depressive episode. An urgent referral was made to the psychiatric services and he was assessed by the Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Service. The assessment documented that Alan had reported suicidal thoughts. The following day, he was prescribed anti-depressants and informed that the Crisis team would be monitoring his mental state and helping with anxiety management.
On 3 June, Alan’s GP deemed him unfit for work due to his depression.
During a home visit on 9 June, it was recorded that Alan was still feeling negative with suicidal ideation. Despite this, he was discharged by the Crisis team and referred to the South Intake Treatment Team, which was a step down level of service from the Crisis Team.
On 13 June, Teresa said she was struggling to manage Alan. He was seen by two psychiatric nurses due to being agitated, shaking and hyperventilating. He was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with major depression. His medication was increased and he was assessed by the Crisis team, however there were no in-depth relationship issues addressed, and no consideration given to carrying out a carer’s assessment for Teresa.
Alan was discharged on 18 June, with his GP reporting he was “still low with active suicidal thoughts.” On 25 June, a plan was documented to discharge him from the Crisis team again.
By 5 July, Alan was struggling with a lack of motivation and negative thoughts. The following day, Teresa contacted the Crisis Team expressing her concerns that Alan was “in a state.” She was told to contact them again if necessary.
By 10 July, Alan’s care had transferred to a care co-ordinator from the Crisis Services. A home visit carried out on 16 July reported Alan continued to “feel really overwhelmed” and “seemed very distraught.”
An appointment made for 24 July was changed to 5 August, during which Alan’s care co-ordinator reported him to be “negative and self-defeating in manner.” It was suggested that Alan’s medication be reviewed with another appointment offered for 10 days later.
On 23 August, Alan was seen at home, with no changes to his mental state and continued low mood. He wasn’t seen again until 2 September, when he was reported to be overwhelmed.
On 6 September, Alan was found dead in his home. A post mortem confirmed he had hanged himself.