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8th June 2021, 20:36

​Parents make recommendations on how mental health services can be improved, at the inquest of their 35 year-old son

Parents of a man who took his own life in October 2019 have made recommendations to the Court on how mental health services in Gibraltar can be improved. They made these suggestions at the inquest into their son’s death, which concluded Tuesday.

The Coroner ruled the then 35 year-old’s cause of death was suicide.

Shelina Assomull has been following proceedings at the Coroner's Court over the last two days. 

The 35 year-old man had - according to his parents - struggled with issues of delirium and paranoia in the run up to his death.

Just over a month before his death, he attempted suicide and was kept under observation in the Intensive Care Unit and seen by a psychiatrist. A care plan was put into place for him to be admitted to Ocean Views once he left hospital. According to doctors, he showed signs of positivity and remorse for his actions while in hospital.

The psychiatrist told the court that the man denied having suicidal thoughts.

He added that a different psychologist then saw the 35 year-old and took the decision to send him home instead, following these improvements.

He was then given a follow up appointment for a month later.

A neighbour of the man took to the stand, describing him as a polite and kind hearted gentleman, who, in the run up to his death, appeared to be quite sad and not himself.

During the inquest, his parents told the Court that it was negligent of professionals to send him home after his overdose. They added their son would seem alright during the day but would suffer high fevers at night time which would prompt delirium and paranoia.

In an emotional testimony, the man’s father told the court that he believed mental health issues to be taboo in Gibraltar, adding young male suicides were an issue we are seeing too much of in Gibraltar.

He highlighted that his son wanted to go Ocean Views Mental Health Facility and was not admitted, adding that a follow up appointment a month later was a long wait.

The father said professionals told him that as their son had a good family, they could care for him. He told the court that this placed a large amount of strain on the parents, who aren’t health professionals.

The parents took him to A&E, concerned for his wellbeing. He was seen by a doctor for – they claim – five minutes, and sent home. They requested he be seen by mental health professional but this didn’t happen.

A few days later his follow up appointment took place and the psychiatrist deemed him not to be a threat to himself.

Pathologists during the inquest found no signs of foul play and a large amount of alcohol in his blood. The Coroner, Charles Pitto ruled the cause of death as suicide, given that he had made food provisions for his dog and said his goodbyes at the bar, as well as a previous attempt to harm himself.

The man’s parents told the court they had three recommendations for healthcare services, based on their son’s experiences.

Firstly, there needs to be more follow ups for individuals with mental health issues in Gibraltar; there should be consideration given to the family’s view of their relative’s state of mind – despite the fact they are an adult – and finally, more support for families caring for someone is required.

They also recommended a ruling of negligence or neglect to the Coroner, however, he said these verdicts in law have very specific requirements and did not apply to these incidents.

Though he agreed a month wait was too long, he pointed out we did not know if this was on medical grounds or due to supply and demand issues with the health system, adding that no one knew if a the review date would have changed the outcome.

He told the parents that the matters they raised about the inadequacies of the healthcare system are best followed up with the Health Authority and not with the Courts.