Millom dad’s ‘smiling mask’ hid feelings of failure
Last updated at 16:52, Thursday, 03 October 2013
A DEVOTED Millom dad who had battled depression for 20 years had twice tried to kill himself in the three months before he died, an inquest heard.
Sellafield civil engineer and father of two Stephen Hartley, 57, hung himself in the garage of his home at Race Grove, The Green, Millom on August 1 last year.
He left two goodbye notes for his family which gave a clear indication that he intended to take his own life.
Described as an intelligent man who liked classical music, he was an accomplished bridge player, a fellwalker, sailor and swimmer, presenting a “smiling, charming mask” to the world.
But inside he felt he was a failure in all aspects of his life and was “overwhelmed by pessimism and hopelessness and pre-occupied with thoughts of death,” the hearing was told.
Mr Hartley had been in and out of mental health units for several years receiving treatment and had once been sectioned, but had lost faith in the use of anti-depressant medication which he said made him feel like a zombie.
North and West Cumbria senior coroner, David Roberts, in recording a verdict of suicide expressed his sympathies to Mr Hartley’s son Jack, daughter Alexandra and brother Ken Hartley, who attended the hearing on Tuesday.
The inquest heard Mr Hartley had been hit hard by the break-up of his marriage in 1987 and become severely depressed.
He had made a suicide attempt with alcohol and tablets in 2004. His situation worsened in 2011 when two good friends died, one being Dr Graham Pogrel, his GP.
An eight-month relationship broke up and a long absence from work left him with financial problems.
He was detained under the Mental Health Act at a unit in Cheshire while staying with his brother in Chester, and he saw being detained as an intellectual challenge to be overcome.
He was subsequently transferred to the Dane Garth mental health unit at Furness General Hospital in Barrow but discharged himself.
In an assessment by clinical psychologist Liz Bolt in May 2011 he expressed a wish for cognative behaviour therapy but Ms Bolt told the inquest: “I didn’t think we were going to transform his personality; he had struggled with self-esteem since childhood.”
Dr Mark Fielding, consultant psychiatrist with Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, thought Mr Hartley had not given medication a proper try.
In 2012 Mr Hartley told him he felt detached from the world and got no enjoyment from life but he had no suicidal intentions.
Mr Hartley called at The Punchbowl pub at The Green – where he was a regular – the night before he died and was saying how proud he was of his son Jack, a musician and daughter Alex, a teacher.
Jack told the hearing his father didn’t have a good experience in Dane Garth and did not want to be there and said: “It wasn’t a helpful place in which to get better.”
Dr Fielding apologised for that.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Mr Hartley studied as a civil engineer at Aston University and came to Cumbria initially to work for Taylor Woodrow before getting a job at Sellafield.
Ken Hartley said: “My brother was so very ill but there were very few people he exposed it to. He was a lovely, generous man. I miss him dearly.”
First published at 15:58, Thursday, 03 October 2013
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
Indeed this is a sad story but, sadly, it is not an isolated case. My son was detained on the Dova Unit after twice attempting suicide. He was released 3 days later not ever seeing a counsellor, psychiatrist or a Psychiatrist other than that who spoke to him for a few minutes before releasing him. He committed suicide 3 days later. Mr Hartley's son was, in my opinion, correct in saying that the Dova Unit is not a helpful place in which to get better.
This story is very sad indeed. My hope is that the family are able to cope with their great loss. There is help out there for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
SOBS (survivors of bereavement by suicide)provide help and support which is crucial for recovery and coming to terms as much as possible with the death of a close friend or relative. The group is run by someone who themselves has experienced this tragedy.
Contact John on: 0789 670 3757 firstname.lastname@example.org