A MUM-OF-FOUR killed herself just days after being told she'd have to wait nine months to see a psychiatrist, an inquest has heard.
Despite having a history of suicide attempts, NHS clinicans concluded that Michelle Gerrard, 44, posed "no risk" to herself.
They placed her on a waiting list for treatment and told her to complete a mood diary in the meantime.
The gym instructor from Chorley, Lancs., was found dead from an overdose of painkillers and alcohol.
Her mum, Megan Chidley, has accused medics of keeping her daughter "on ice", saying that their inaction had contributed to her death.
Michelle had been having violent mood swings and suicidal thoughts in the run-up to her death but becasue she was regularly drinking, was denied access to a psychiatrist.
Speaking to mental health practitioner Stacey Love at the hearing in Preston, Megan said: "Michelle told us that she told you that she was having suicidal thoughts – that she was having thoughts about harming herself and other people – which in particular terrified her to death because that was not her personality.
"Given the attempts to take her own life in the past and the fact this had been going on for years, it wasn't a surprise to us that Michelle had tried to take her own life again.
"It was of course massive shock that she died this time – but it wasn't a shock that she had tried again.
"So how it was a shock to the mental health team I have no idea. And you say she didn't qualify for secondary services? It seems like you can't qualify until you actually manage to kill yourself."
Significant reform needed
She said that her daughter wanted a proper diagnosis and a change in her medication so she could "get on with her life".
Michelle had felt like she'd been ignored and that the meetings with the mental health team "were nothing but a box ticking exercise".
Her devastated family questioned how her intentions could have been missed by professionals.
"Why would she go to these meetings and not mention it? She knew she was struggling with her moods. She wasn't going to go then not say anything. She wasn't a stupid woman."
As a result of her tragic death, they're now calling for mental health services to be reformed.
"There needs to be massive shake-ups because people do die and now the kids don't have a mother."
The inquest in Preston heard that Michelle had seen mental health practitioner Stacey Love in February where they discussed coping strategies.
'No suicidal intention'
She said: "We agreed she could complete a mood diary while she waited for her appointment with the psychiatric consultant.
"Michelle didn't meet the criteria for second stage services. She was in the right place for her mental health state with what she told clinicians.
"She was on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist but the waiting lists are less than ideal.
"When we spoke she had no thoughts to end her life. She said she was struggling but told me she had no suicidal ideation so there was no reason to bring her treatment forward."
The inquest also heard from mental health nurse Deborah Hutchins who saw Michelle the following both.
She said that the mum had denied being suicidal or having any thoughts of harming herself out of fear for her kids.
"She spoke repeatedly about loving her children dearly," she recalled.
"She said she was looking forward to seeing them and spending time together over half term. She was adamant she wouldn't hurt herself. She kept speaking about spending time with her kids over half term."
Overstretched resources to blame
Christopher Hardie, who carried out a review of Michelle’s treatment said: “Michelle was put on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist but the waiting time is nine months.
"That consultant is not able to see more than four additional patients each week on top of the patients he already sees. That means the waiting list is growing rather than shrinking."
He said that the reason she wasn't regarded as urgent was that she didn't seem to present a risk to herself or others at the time.
“The assessment for changes in treatment is based on a risk assessment and she didn’t present as a risk.
"Clinicians consistently throughout my review of her treatment said the same as the clinicians who have spoken here today – she didn’t present such feelings of being a risk to herself or others. She wasn’t presenting with enough risk to escalate her treatment.”
The key signs your loved one is at risk of suicide
There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide. But it's vital to know that they won't always be obvious.
While some people are quite visibly in pain and become withdrawn and depressed, others may continue their life as normal pretending everything is fine.
Look out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time, Lorna told The Sun Online.
These are the key signs to watch out for:
- A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
- Struggling to sleep, lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
- Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
- Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
- Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
- Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
- Appearing more tearful
- Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
- Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example 'Oh, no one loves me', or 'I'm a waste of space'
- Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don't matter
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Recording a conclusion of suicide, coroner Richard Taylor, said: “Over a number of years Michelle suffered with mental health problems.
"She saw her GP and was referred to a mental health team whilst waiting to see a psychiatrist.
"And all while waiting to see that psychiatrist, despite suffering and previous attempts, her status was never escalated."
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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