Dave’s son, Ben, was aged 21 when he developed mental health problems. In 2003 Ben took his own life by crashing his car. Dave was devastated. He has found some help for his grief by seeing a psychiatrist and by going to Compassionate Friends.
Dave’s son, Ben, went to university, but was not happy and lost weight. Dave and his wife brought Ben home and hoped he would feel better. A university counsellor contacted them and told them that Ben needed help, so they took him to see his GP, who referred him to a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist told Dave and his wife that Ben had been taking drugs which might have made him psychotic. After several months of seeing the psychiatrist Ben was discharged from the system because the doctor thought he was well.
Ben soon became unwell again. People heard him saying strange things. Dave and his wife tried to get him referred to a psychiatrist again. One day he disappeared and was found wandering on the railway line. Another day Ben hurt his hand and was taken to casualty, where Dave and his wife asked for an assessment with someone from the mental health team. Ben was seen by another psychiatrist, who recommended he be admitted to hospital.
Ben went into hospital as a voluntary patient. He was there for six weeks, on medication. He was then discharged under the care of a community psychiatric nurse. Although the nurse visited about 10 times over a 10 week period there did not seem to be a care plan in place. Ben’s mental health seemed to be deteriorating and so Dave and his wife managed to get an appointment with the psychiatrist for 17th March, but on 14th March 2003 Ben killed himself by driving in front of a lorry.
Dave and his wife were totally shocked. Ben’s death came like a bolt from the blue. They had been told by the psychiatrist that Ben was in the top 10% for recovery and they had no idea that he was thinking about suicide. Ben had mentioned suicide to one of his friends but he had not discussed it with his parents. They went to see his body at the hospital, which they thought was important, but naturally found distressing.
The police and the coroner’s officer acted in a kind and compassionate manner. At the inquest the coroner concluded that Ben had killed himself. The Hospital Trust suggested that it might have been an accidental death, but Dave and his wife were sure that Ben’s death was due to suicide.
Dave and his wife put in a complaint to the Trust about the inadequate care they believed their son had received. They felt angry about the lack of communication between the doctors and themselves and the apparent lack of communication between the community psychiatric nurse and the doctors. The Trust denied any mal practice or lack of care so the matter went to the Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman made a series of recommendations but the Trust said that they could not guarantee that the changes could be made because of a lack of resources.
Since Ben’s death Dave has tried to work but has found it difficult and is not working at the moment. He finds it hard to concentrate. Dave and his wife have been shattered by events and feel isolated in their grief. Dave has seen a psychiatrist and had counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, which he has found helpful. He and his wife have also found friendship and comfort from the group, Compassionate Friends. Dave did not find help from Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS). He found other people’s stories too distressing.
Dave’s thoughts and feelings have changed a little over time. He doesn’t think about Ben every moment of the day, but the weight of his loss can suddenly hit him, and then he feels as bad as he has ever done since Ben’s death. Dave would like to talk about Ben but finds that other people expect him and his wife to have got over Ben’s death and that other people do not want to talk about Ben or about suicide. This is upsetting and isolating.
Dave and is wife continue to go to suicide prevention strategy meetings. They hope to give health professionals some insight into the terrible effect that suicide can have on a family.