The parents of an architecture graduate who took his own life after his sister was killed by a dangerous driver have said they were ‘let down’ by a health trust who failed to prevent his death.
Stephen Thurm, 32, was found hanged at the Dunham Forest Golf Club and Country Club in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, on February 5 last year.
A coroner concluded that he took his own life because his mental health problems were ‘heightened’ by the death of his sister Helena.
University graduate Helena, 25, was on her way home from a job interview when she was knocked down and killed as she crossed a road in Altrincham in June 2016.
Stephen Thurm (middle, pictured with his sister Helena and brother Mike), 32, was found hanged at the Dunham Forest Golf Club and Country Club in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, on February 5 last year
Stephen’s sister Helena (pictured), 25, was killed after she was struck down by a dangerous driver while crossing a road in Altrincham on her way back from a job interview
Driver Glenn Wall was later jailed for two years for causing death by dangerous driving.
The inquest heard how Stephen had suffered with depression and anxiety since adolescence but his metal health took ‘a dramatic turn for the worse’ after Helena’s death.
The tragedy led to Stephen becoming more isolated, he attempted to take his own life in December 2016 and was sectioned several times.
His mother Sandra Thurm told the inquest: ‘He was withdrawn, he isolated himself a lot more, he was aggressive, he was angry… he just seemed to lose his zest for life.’
Stephen was placed in the care of mental health professionals and prescribed anti-depressants.
But his mental health continued to deteriorate, with episodes of ‘manic’ and ‘paranoid’ behaviour.
He also gambled – losing £4,000 in 20 minutes at a casino – took drugs and drank heavily.
The inquest heard how Stephen was reluctant to engage with psychiatrists and psychologists and would often miss or cancel appointments.
A coroner concluded that he took his own life because his mental health problems were ‘heightened’ by the death of his sister Helena (pictured with her brother Mike)
But Stephen’s family raised concerns about the treatment he received, believing opportunities had been missed to help him.
Mrs Thurm told the inquest: ‘It was like it was a paper exercise, tick off the box.
‘There didn’t seem to be any difference between care plans.’
Stephen was last seen by a psychiatrist in August 2019 and by a psychologist on a one-to-one basis in July 2018, the inquest heard.
Dr Luis Rojo, a consultant psychiatrist for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) who treated Stephen, said they’d done their ‘best’ for him and ‘tried everything’.
The inquest heard how Stephen (pictured) had suffered with depression and anxiety since adolescence but his metal health took ‘a dramatic turn for the worse’ after Helena’s death
From September 2019 the mental team had changed their approach to allow Stephen more control over his treatment in the hope of improving his engagement.
But Daniel Paul, the lawyer representing his family, said it ‘inevitably’ increased the risk to Stephen and resulted in less contact with the mental health team in the months leading up to his death.
The inquest also heard how Stephen had ‘sporadic’ engagement with Dr Rojo’s colleague, psychologist Dr Rachel Wass.
He’d completed six sessions with her, the last taking place in July 2018.
Mr Paul said Stephen had initiated a request for further treatment a year later but the ‘opportunity’ was not seized.
‘There’s no evidence I have seen this was taken seriously,’ he said.
University graduate Helena (pictured with brother Mike), 25, was on her way home from a job interview when she was knocked down and killed as she crossed a road in Altrincham in June 2016
‘It’s almost as if a barrier was put up for him to demonstrate he was sufficiently motivated.’
Coroner Chris Murray recorded a verdict of suicide and said he’d be writing a report to prevent future deaths.
He noted ‘inconsistencies’ in the use of ‘red zones’ – which meant Stephen received up to three ‘contacts’ from the mental health per day – and a lack of time for a care co-ordinator to complete detailed contemporaneous notes.
There had been no ‘escalation’ of care to ensure staff had a ‘complete picture’, Mr Murray said.
He added that a further ‘issue’ was the use of information gathered from Stephen’s parents and how it had been adopted in care plans and there had been a lack of support for them.
Driver Glenn Wall (pictured) was later jailed for two years for causing death by dangerous driving
In a statement, Stephen’s parents said they felt ‘let down’ by the Trust who’d ‘failed to prevent’ Stephen’s death and they supported the coroner’s conclusions about inconsistencies and failings in their son’s care.
‘Nothing will bring back our beloved son, Stephen, but we hope that changes resulting from the Coroner’s findings might help future patients,’ they said.
‘Clearly, in this instance the NHS did not perform as it should, but we reserve the underlying blame for this catastrophic series of events, involving the death of two kind, talented and beautiful young people on dangerous driver Glenn Wall, whose one year in prison seems totally inadequate compared to our lifetime of grief.’
Gill Green, Director of Nursing and Governance at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) said: ‘Our Trust is committed to continuous learning and improvement. Since the incident, we carried out an extensive internal review which led to recommendations and a comprehensive action plan to help prevent similar incidents in the future.
‘The action plan focused on training and supporting staff to follow all Trust policies and procedures around referrals to other services, and documentation. All actions have now been completed.’
She said that the trust ‘fully accepted’ the findings of the coroner and changes had been made to ensure staff work more closely with the family of friends of patients.
She added: ‘We recognise this comes too late for Stephen, and our thoughts remain with everyone who was affected by this tragedy.’
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