Patricia’s husband, Andrew, had had depression for years. A number of times he had taken an overdose or tried to gas himself and then sought help. In 1994 he died in a car, due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Patricia found support via Cruse & SOBS.
Patricia’s husband was called Andrew. His parents had expected him to do well, both at school and in his professional life. However, he hated school and Patricia wonders if he had been abused during his time at boarding school. At university he studied law and then trained as a barrister and later qualified as a solicitor, but fee income was variable and sometimes he was not paid for long periods of time. He had to look after his young family and at times there were severe financial pressures.
Patricia thinks that Andrew had a depressive illness long before she met him. He found it difficult to cope in tough situations and found it impossible to discuss his problems. Andrew disappeared on more than one occasion, and a number of times tried to harm himself. He took an overdose of commonly used medication but then asked his GP for help. He was taken to hospital. Patricia thinks that Andrew may have behaved in this way because the actions were a type of catharsis and he sought help immediately afterwards.
Patricia herself experienced post-natal depression after her second child was born. This lasted two years, so she says that she does understand what it is like to be severely depressed.
Andrew was made redundant and had further financial problems. He joined another practice but felt under pressure to prove that he was competent. Then in 1986 his mother died. This seemed to have a huge impact on him and after he had sorted out the estate he disappeared again. This time he tried to gas himself in his car.
Andrew re-appeared and was referred to a consultant psychologist. Patricia believes that the joint sessions they had with the psychologist were most helpful, and had they continued Andrew might be here today. However, Andrew’s partners insisted that he resign from his job and this meant that the family had to move away and were no longer in contact with that source of help.
Andrew found more work and again became a workaholic. In November 1988 he disappeared again. He tried to gas himself again in his car, but did not succeed and called an ambulance. He was seen by his GP but declined medication. Patricia had expected Andrew to continue treatment with a psychologist but the GP told them that psychotherapy was not available within the NHS in the area. Patricia now knows that psychotherapy was available in the area but that the GP, who at this time had only known the family for three months, had decided that in Andrew’s case it was not necessary.
Andrew lost his job again, which meant that the family were in financial difficulties. He managed to get another job, but was under other pressures. Unknown to Patricia, he had problems with the Inland Revenue, which was demanding money which should have been paid by his partners at his previous place of work.
In 1990 Andrew disappeared again. A week later he returned during the night and put a suicide note through the letter box. Then he phoned home and Patricia persuaded him to return.
Andrew changed jobs but had to work incredibly hard and was under great stress. In February 1994 he disappeared for the last time, and was missing for five days. During that time Patricia was very distressed and found help from a Canon at the local cathedral, who listened to what had happened.
Andrew was found dead in his car. He must have suffered from hypothermia because it was the coldest week of the winter and he had had no food for days. Patricia is convinced that his reasoning was affected by this. She is not convinced that he meant to take his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning because he left a note indicating that he was worrying about whether or not she would have him back or not. Patricia wonders if Andrew had had a Russian roulette approach to his own survival. She was not happy with the way the inquest was conducted or about the verdict of death due to suicide.
Patricia had to tell the children, who were then aged 18, 15 and 8; the most difficult thing she has ever had to do. Two of the children found support via the Charity Winston’s Wish, and they also had some professional counselling.
After Andrew’s death many people attended the funeral. Patricia felt she needed to talk to someone who had also been bereaved due to suicide but could not find anyone at the time. She had help from a bereavement counsellor from Cruse during the first six months after Andrew died, and she also continued to have support from the Canon at the cathedral, but she really needed to talk to someone who knew what she was going through.
About two and a half years later, Patricia found Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide [formerly known as SOBS] and she attended a conference run by the support group. She found it most helpful. The main speaker reassured her that after all she had experienced it was normal to feel some sense of relief after Andrew’s death, as well as other emotions such as sadness, guilt and anger.
Patricia soon became more involved in SOBS and in 1999 she set up a new group locally. For a while she was also national liaison officer, and organised and spoke at many conferences. She also runs weekend residential events for those who have no local group or have moved beyond needing a group but still need contact with other survivors.
Patricia says that she has made many friends through her work with SOBS. She continues to help others bereaved due to suicide via her work with the organisation, and also works with LawCare, an organisation that offers support to legal professionals suffering from stress.
Patricia was interviewedin July 2007.