Another young man.
Same themes. Same gaps. Same cover-ups.
“Y went to University, experiencing life away from home for the first time. Although only a 40-minute train journey away, he lived in halls of residence, sharing a flat with four other students. I saw him at least once every fortnight and although I knew he was upset at the break up of his first serious relationship, there were no signs that he was struggling to cope with his studies or not enjoying university life. He appeared to be the same quirky teenager who made friends easily and faced challenges full on.
One Sunday he failed to come home for lunch with the family. Frantic, I drove to his halls where an ambulance and police car were parked and I was given the news that our beloved son was gone. It was another 24 hours before we discovered he had completed suicide. Nothing could have prepared me or our family.
Five months later we attended an inquest into his death where an open verdict was recorded, and the Coroner claimed that everything possible had been done by health care professionals to support Y following a university doctor diagnosing him with depression and prescribing anti-depressants. He had been referred for counselling and his university tutor was informed.
At the inquest, the GP had legal representation. A representative of the university’s counselling service gave evidence on behalf of the counsellor; a statement was read out from a doctor who had admitted Y to hospital following two incidents of self-harm, and another statement was read from the university tutor in whom Y had confided.
As a family, we sat completely dumbfounded that all of these people knew that our child was suffering from mental health issues. Not one of them had contacted any of us, or identified us as a ‘safety contact’, yet felt the need to be legally and professionally protected in court.
Just one month after starting university and following the break-up with his girlfriend, Y made his first suicide attempt. We were not informed. The reason we were given was that he was an adult and all of the professionals involved had a duty to respect his confidentiality. The counsellor’s representative commented that it was ‘possible’ that it ‘may have been suggested’ that Y talk to me about his situation, but she could not confirm that this was the case.
Had Lawrence been involved in any sort of accident then I would have been contacted immediately, but because his admission was a mental health issue the veil of confidentiality came down and prioritised clinical staff welfare rather than that of my son.
Did we as a family – or me, specifically, as his mother – fail him? We failed to see his suffering, but when he was around us he was the usual Y we all knew and loved.
Did the university fail him? Yes, they should have informed his emergency contact/next of kin that he had expressed suicidal thoughts.
Did the clinicians fail him? Yes, by averting culpability and absolving themselves within a care system culture that protects its own and isolates the patient from their family – the people closest to them and those who would have provided the love, care and protection that could have saved a young life.
As a family we felt that the ‘professionals’ closed ranks to protect themselves. In the weeks leading up to that awful day, and the months before the inquest, their self-protective instincts mattered more than the duty of care they had towards protecting our son Y, a caring, funny, intelligent young man with a whole lifetime of adventures in front of him.”
NO CONFIDENTIALITY WHEN IT COMES TO SUICIDE.
In Jan 2014, an official document was published – “Consensus statement on information sharing” (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/271792/Consensus_statement_on_information_sharing.pdf)
“The statement applies to adults in England. Information can be shared where it is in the public interest to do so. In practice, this means that practitioners should disclose information to an appropriate person or authority if this is necessary to protect the child or young person from risk of death or serious harm. A decision can be made to share such information with the family and friends, and normally would be.”
Who’s left to deal with the loss for the rest of their lives? The people who never knew it was happening. The people who would have gone to any lengths to avert the tragedy. The people who had a right to be informed.
10th of october 2014 was a friday, the beginning of my last weekend with my darling son, the last italian meal we shared. All that is left now is a broken heart holding many beautiful memories on one hand and reliving the nightmare over and over again on the other.