Daughter speaks out against Cornwall Mental Health Services after her mother’s death

The daughter of a beloved mother has slammed Cornwall Mental Health Services after her death. Clare Fisher, 60, had suffered from depression for many years but worsened in the weeks and months before her death.

Clare, who lived in Falmouth where she moved to retire, was found in her car parked in a lane near Constantine with stored medicine on May 31 last year. An inquest into Clare’s death has been heard from a statement from her GP at Trescobeas Surgery in Falmouth.

The statement describes how Clare signed up for surgery after moving to Cornwall in 2020 and had a number of phone consultations. During these conversations, Clare was offered a referral to the Cornwall Mental Health team, which she later declined and her medication was changed to try to improve her bad mood.

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Clare’s cause of death was given as a mixed drug overdose from a lethal amount of prescribed medication.

Clare’s husband Peter described how she qualified and worked in various fields of nursing for many years before retiring at the age of 55 and moving to Cornwall in 2020.

He said: ‘She had an interest in running, cats and dogs and had a cocker spaniel. She was interested in horse riding and cycling and was an avid walker. She walked regularly.

Peter said Clare had tried to kill herself in the past but didn’t follow through. She was also struggling in Cornwall after leaving her support network in Hampshire where they previously lived.

The inquest then heard from Grace, Clare’s daughter. She described Cornwall’s mental health services as “inadequate”.

She added: ‘I appreciate the work of the NHS and mum was a staff member for many years, but I fundamentally believe the system is broken and if we don’t fix the system more people will take their own lives. It is underfunded and understaffed.

“Mum had an excellent GP (in Hampshire) who saw her through suicidal ideation, but when she moved she could only access her new GP by phone.

“In the weeks leading up to his death, he was advised to change his medication. She was terrified because she knew that a change was often when suicide happened.

“She attempted to kill herself three weeks before but was saved by a call to the Samaritans. From the conversations I heard, her GP did not ask her if she was suicidal and she was able to store her medication.

“I believe there were flaws in his mental health treatment and there could have been better treatment with better funding for mental health services in Cornwall.”

In response to Grace’s statement, Cornwall Supervising Coroner Andrew Cox said: ‘I know all too well the problems with mental health services in Cornwall, but I see no obvious omission in the care and treatment support your mother received.

Mr Cox said Clare had been seen by mental health services and the change in medication was appropriate. He added that there just wasn’t enough time to build a rapport with her new GP similar to the one she had in Hampshire and that phone appointments were commonplace during Covid.

He added: “Clare apparently had a long history of mental health issues and they were exacerbated in the months before her death. I suspect a number of factors were involved. The move was a factor as it will have taken her away from her usual support network. The isolating nature of Covid was also a factor.

“I don’t see anything that was missed and not done. She had the support of a new general practitioner but will not have established a therapeutic relationship. There was simply no time. I note that the change in medication was appropriate and Clare was offered a recommendation which she declined. There didn’t seem to be any immediate risk of her committing suicide.

Mr. Cox made a suicide finding and expressed his sympathy to his family.

A fundraiser organized by Grace after Clare’s death raised thousands of dollars for Sea Sanctuary Cornwall, a mental health charity.

There are many different places to get help online, including online chats, text help, phone calls, and even apps with games to help you manage your feelings.

If you need help or just want to know what’s available to you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of a number of services.

Below are some of the helplines and websites that can help you.

  • 24/7 NHS Mental Health Response Line: For help and advice. Call for free any time of day or night if you’re worried about your mental health or someone else’s. The team behind the 24/7 toll-free helpline will listen to you and determine the best way to help you. t: 0800 038 5300 (free) 24 hours a day

  • Samaritans: emotional support for anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. t: 116 123 24 hours a day e: [email protected]

  • Outlook South West offers online support and NHS talk therapies – call 01208 871905 for people aged 16 and over. The Suicide Liaison Service is also available through this number. This is also an NHS funded service, but for adults aged 18 and over who have been bereaved by suicide.

  • Man Down: supporting men’s mental health in Cornwall – www.mandown-cornwall.co.uk

  • ‘We’re with you’ for help with alcohol, drugs or mental health, call 01872 263001 or visit https://www.wearewithyou.org.uk/services/cornwall-truro/.

  • Childline: Free, private and confidential service for anyone under 19 where you can talk about anything. Whatever your worry, whenever you need help, anytime. t: 0800 1111 email or chat via www.childline.org.uk

  • Shout: 24/7 texting service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis, anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and need immediate help. Text: 85258

  • CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably: For men who are depressed or in need of talking, find information and support. t: 0800 58 58 58 5 p.m. – midnight every day or webchat at www.thecalmzone.net

  • If you are a young person or are worried about a child you can call the Early Help Hub for advice and help (call 01872 322277 or email [email protected]).

  • Call 0300 777 4777 or visit https://saferfutures.org.uk/ if you or anyone else is affected by domestic violence, sexual violence and those who exhibit abusive behavior.

  • Papyrus Hopeline UK: For people under 35 with suicidal thoughts, or anyone concerned that a young person may be thinking about suicide. tel: 0800 068 4141 e: [email protected]