In 1981, when Lynne was 19, her mother drowned in the bath at home. It seems that she took her own life. Lynne felt her mother had been let down by the professionals who had been involved in her care. She has found support from friends & colleagues.
When Lynne was a teenager she was aware that her mother was affected by mental ill health. Sometimes her mother seemed happy and extrovert but at other times she seemed anxious and almost agoraphobic. In 1981, when Lynne was 19 years old, the family moved from a village to a nearby town. Her mother wanted this move but after the move her mental health problems seemed to get worse. Her mother’s medication had been changed by the GP – the dose had been reduced – and Lynne wonders whether or not this affected her mother’s increasing mental ill health.
Lynne’s mother started to hear voices. She said that someone was telling her to kill herself. One day she took an overdose and was admitted to hospital, but was soon sent home. On another occasion she tried to kill herself by putting her head in an oven. She was seen by her psychiatrist the following Friday, and she told him that she felt suicidal, but she was sent home.
Two days later, Lynne, and a friend, and Lynne’s father, went out for a walk. It was Sunday afternoon. They returned to find Lynne’s mother apparently dead in the bath. They tried to resuscitate her and Lynne called 999, but when the ambulance men arrived there was nothing they could do. The GP was called to certify the death and the police arrived too.
A policeman stayed with the family and took care of the girls and showed a great deal of compassion, while they waited for Lynne’s mother’s body to be taken away, but the GP left soon after he had seen the body and did not call again to see if Lynne and her family were alright. Lynne would have liked the GP to have shown more concern.
After the initial shock of finding her mother dead, Lynne wondered if there was any way the family could have prevented her death, and she felt a sense of guilt. However, she also felt a sense of what might almost be called relief because the family had been living with her mother’s mental illness for so long and because there never seemed to be an end in sight. Lynne found it hard to make sense of what had happened. As her parents were both active members of their local church Lynne wondered how her mother’s death would be regarded by other members of the church.
Many people attended the funeral and Lynne felt that the family was well supported. However, although Lynne did not feel that other people were judgmental she found that others were not very happy to talk about what had happened. Lynne thinks that other people feel embarrassed when they hear that someone has committed suicide, and that they fear talking about it in case they upset those involved.
Soon after her mother’s death Lynne’s mother’s psychiatrist offered to see her and her father, but Lynne felt that her mother’s health care team had let her mother down and so she did not feel that it was appropriate to seek help from those who had been involved in her care. Lynne felt angry because her mother had been sent home even though she had told the psychiatrist that she was feeling suicidal.
Lynne had to return to work, a clinical placement at a London hospital. She did not seek any formal support or counselling but she felt that her colleagues and friends were very supportive.
Months later Lynne attended the inquest. She found it emotional, quite scary and very formal. The verdict given by the coroner was death by fresh water drowning, whilst the balance of her mind was unstable .
Years later Lynne wished she had looked at her mothers medical notes, because she wanted to make sense of what had happened, and today she thinks that help and support are not always offered to those who are bereaved at the most appropriate time. People bereaved due to suicide may need different kinds of support at different stages.
At times Lynne still feels sad and angry, particularly on important occasions, when her mother is not with her to celebrate certain events in her life. Lynne also feels sad that the family were not able to help her mother and make life happier for her. Although Lynne feels upset that her mother apparently made a decision to take her own life she understands that her mother was ill at the time and may not have been thinking in a logical manner.
Lynne was interviewed in November 2007.