In 2005, Susan’s daughter, Rose, took her own life. She shot herself. Rose had had anorexia and then depression, and was later thought to have bipolar disorder. Susan feels angry because she believes that NHS psychiatric services were inadequate.
In 2005, Susan’s daughter, Rose, was 28. She had had anorexia when she was aged 14. In 2001 she had an accident, was knocked off her bicycle and sustained a serious head injury. After that she could not work and she thought she had ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome).
In 2004 Rose told her friends she was feeling very depressed. Her friends gave her various drugs, which did not make her feel any better. Rose went home and then went to see her GP, who prescribed anti-depressants. These did not help and soon afterwards Rose tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists with some scissors.
Susan sought help from local psychiatric services. A psychiatric nurse called at the house to see Rose, but was not able to offer any useful advice. She seemed to make light of the situation. Soon Rose began to suffer from panic attacks and hyper-anxiety. She perceived that her home was no longer her refuge and she started to see Susan as a frightening figure.
Susan tried to find a private psychiatrist for Rose but could not find anyone suitable. It took some time for Susan to get an appointment for Rose with an NHS psychiatrist. The psychiatrist prescribed various drugs but Rose would not take any particular pill for long, partly because they made her feel so lethargic. She was given Ritrovil to calm her but had to be forced to take it. Sometimes she said that she wanted to die and then at other times she seemed fine and would play an astounding game of tennis.
At one point the situation became so bad that Susan asked the local crisis team for help, but she was told that the family came from a background that did not need help from the crisis team. The health professionals involved said that only those from deprived areas had access to the crisis team. Then Rose saw a psychiatrist in London, who gave her time freely for a Christian charitable organization. This doctor recognized that Rose’s condition was probably bipolar disorder, but by that time Rose seemed to have lost all hope of getting better.
Rose returned home and had to see her GP for a knee injury. He did not recognize the depth of her depression and told Susan that there was nothing to worry about. On returning home Rose said she was going to the attic play her guitar. Susan went out of the house and returned and went upstairs to look for Rose and found that she had shot herself. Susan thinks that Rose found out how to use a gun by looking at the internet. Susan’s cleaning lady, who was in the house at the time, dialed 999. A number of armed police arrived, plus a police helicopter, perhaps thinking it was a hostage situation. The police later apologised for their mistake and then took statements.
When Susan found Rose’s body she could not believe what she saw. At first she was in denial and then in total shock. She did not want any other members of the family to see Rose’s dead body because of the terrible and violent way in which she had died.
Rose’s body was taken away and the family was then left in a void to grieve. Susan, her husband and her sons felt they had to go everywhere together for the first few days. The press hounded them until they gave a statement.
Rose was cremated and then the family had a wonderful memorial service, which was attended by over five hundred people. Friends came from all over the world.
Susan found the inquest very distressing, and not what she had been expecting. The interim death certificate had stated that Rose had taken her own life so Susan assumed that the coroner would accept that that is what had happened. However, she found herself called as a witness and being questioned and giving evidence for about 20 minutes.
Susan had wanted to say something at the inquest about the inadequate psychiatric service and the drugs that her daughter had been given, but she was not given the opportunity to do that at the time.
Rose had left a note, which made it clear she had decided that she felt she could not go on living, and the final verdict at the inquest was that Rose had taken her own life.
Susan now feels very angry that Rose was given so little help from psychiatric services when she was clearly so ill. Susan also feels upset and angry that she has been largely ignored by the health professionals who were involved with Rose’s care. Her own GP visited on the day of Rose’s death, having been informed, and Rose’s NHS psychiatrist offered to see her and her husband. They had an appointment with him to discuss what had happened. But since then none of the other health professionals involved have enquired about Susan’s mental health or her need for support. She has had to find a private counsellor for help and support, and she does not know how she would have survived without her family and friends. Susan found the sessions with the counsellor helpful because she could be herself and did not have to pretend that all was well. She still sees the counsellor from time to time.
Sometimes Susan feels very lonely and isolated but she finds social interaction exhausting, partly because she feels she has to pretend that she is feeling better. Susan has recently decided that she wants to talk to others who have been bereaved and who have lost a child. She has found a local group of Compassionate Friends, and will soon attend one of their meetings.
Susan was interviewed in October 2007