Health services 'improved' after suicide

A MOTHER whose mentally ill son stabbed himself to death welcomed assurances from health chiefs last night that they have improved community psychiatric services following the tragedy.

A MOTHER whose mentally ill son stabbed himself to death welcomed assurances from health chiefs last night that they have improved community psychiatric services following the tragedy.

Florence Weston spoke out after the inquest into the death of her son Christopher Carroll, 32, from Onehouse near Stowmarket, who had run amok in the Needham Market area, attacking cars, his mother, and finally stabbing himself to death in her garden.

Mr Carroll, who had studied for a degree in fine art at Hull University, had been considered a danger to himself and potentially others when he was unwell and had been known to self-harm, take cannabis, and suffer from delusions.

But he also had a caring side, had been living in the community, and had support from mental health professionals - although the inquest heard the family had had difficulty contacting a part-time community psychiatric nurse.

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The inquest at Bury St Edmunds was told yesterday that during September 2004 Mr Carroll, who lived in a flat in Onehouse, had suffered from rapidly declining mental health and his family had been concerned before the terrible incidents unfolded.

On September 10, Mr Carroll was seen running down the middle of the road near Needham Market and one car had to swerve to avoid hitting him and ended up on its roof, and a second motorist was confronted by Mr Carroll who pounded on the car before the frightened woman drove away. Mr Carroll headed into Needham Market where he punched another car's window.

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When he arrived at his mother's bungalow in Ludbrook Close, he smashed her bedroom window before hitting her.

Ms Weston, a divorcee, said: “Chris was caring and non-aggressive normally, but his behaviour could change and he would become agitated.

“Chris hit me, he had never done that before. He punched me on the left side of my head, and I fell on to a kitchen unit. I cannot recall how many times he punched me. I remember running out and falling over and ending up at a neighbours, and an ambulance arriving.''

The inquest heard how Mr Carroll had a knife and how armed police officers had been called to the scene. Mr Carroll had disappeared into the garden where he was later found to have stabbed himself in the heart, taking his own life.

It emerged during the inquest that the family had had difficulties contacting a community psychiatric nurse when they needed help, and it emerged that this professional was only employed part-time and was therefore not available for days at a time.

Margaret Little, who as service manager for the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is responsible for community mental health teams, told the coroner that changes had now been made in the way they operate that were not in place when Mr Carroll killed himself.

She said that a crisis home treatment service was now available 24 hours a day, a team that can go out into the community to help in an emergency.

She said: “I can assure you that the service is now different, there is 24-hour access to crisis team, with a direct line number.''

Mrs Weston said she was delighted some improvements have been made to the mental health service provision in Suffolk, after her son's tragic death.

But her comments come amid turmoil for mental health services in the county. The chief executive of East Suffolk Mind told earlier this month how they may have to make devastating cutbacks to the services they run in the wake of budget cuts by Suffolk County Council and the region's health trusts.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded a verdict of suicide, while the balance of Mr Carroll's mind was disturbed.

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