Inquest opens into Jeremy Head’s suicide at Bury St Edmunds mental health unit Wedgwood House
PUBLISHED: 20:19 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:54 22 February 2017
The sister of a 49-year-old man who was found hanged at a mental health unit in Suffolk has said she begged for help in the weeks leading up to his death.
Jeremy Head took his own life in his room at Wedgwood House, run by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and based at West Suffolk Hospital (WSH) in Bury St Edmunds, on November 23, 2014.
During the opening of his inquest in Ipswich today, his sister Joanna Clark said: “I had a sense he was not safe.
“I was begging for help, I didn’t know what way to go.
“The whole time through this process I felt like my voice was never listened to.”
In October 2014 Mr Head returned to the UK from India, where he had lived and worked as a child psychologist at an orphanage for 11 years, to stay with Mrs Clark at her home in Klondyke, Bury St Edmunds, due to fears over his physical wellbeing.
On arrival Mr Head complained of severe pain in his abdomen and bowel, which he was convinced was going to cause his imminent death.
The inquest heard Mr Head had “bizarre beliefs” about his condition, claiming: “his body was twisted and broken, his bowels and stomach were fused together and his neck was not attached properly to his body”.
He told doctors he had been in a motorcycle accident in India and was subsequently in a coma for several months.
However, his medical records showed no evidence of this and during the inquest Mrs Clark said: “I knew he hadn’t been in a coma or a motorbike accident, I think it all just got muddled in his head.”
Mr Head was taken for a number of medical appointments and became frustrated as he felt like he was not believed.
He was diagnosed with conversion disorder, which means the origin of his physical pain was considered psychological.
On November 7 Mr Head agreed to go into Wedgwood House after Mrs Clark found a “suicide note” in his room.
On assessment, Mr Head told Dr Jahed Shaik the note was an “instruction on what to do with his money in anticipation he would die from his pain”.
The inquest was told Dr Shaik judged Mr Head was a “low suicide risk”.
After Mr Head’s admission, Mrs Clark found a sharp kitchen knife and empty packets of Alprazolam in his bedroom.
She told the inquest this was “very concerning” as Mr Head had been addicted to heroin in the past.
On November 8 she reported her discovery to staff at Wedgwood House, and on the same day dropped off a bag containing items to make Mr Head’s stay more comfortable, including toiletries, pyjamas and squash.
But Mrs Clark, who is a trained psychotherapist, said she was “shocked” and in “horror” when she realised the bag had not been given to Mr Head six days later.
In the final days of his life Mr Head became “anxious and guarded” and “kept a low profile”, only leaving his room at meal times.
Pathologist Karl Love said Mr Head had gallbladder disease and a stomach ulcer at the time of his death.
Coroner Peter Dean said: “Two potent reasons for abdominal pain.”
Mr Love added Mr Head’s gallbladder had enlarged twice the normal size, and a stone had blocked the cystic duct.
The postmortem confirmed the primary cause of Mr Head’s death was hanging, with his mental health problems and medical issues listed as contributory factors.
The inquest heard Mr Head had written in the note found in his room: “Get them to examine me, you will see I’m not mad.”
The hearing continues tomorrow.