The heartbroken family of a Derbyshire mum who took her own life while suffering from delusional disorder have called for an ‘overhaul’ of mental health services.
Relatives of Kerry Byfleet, who was found hanging by one of her three children in July 2018, claim families of mental health patients are ‘not taken seriously’ or ‘given enough involvement’ in their loved ones’ care.
An inquest at Chesterfield Coroners’ Court on Tuesday heard Mrs Byfleet, of Poolsbrook View, Poolsbrook, began to deteriorate psychologically when she developed back pain due to a bulging disc in 2016.
After two spinal surgeries, both of which were ‘unsuccessful’ at alleviating her pain, she began suffering from delusions that ‘parasites’ were taking over her body.
The 45-year-old health care assistant became convinced that insects were ‘eating away at her’ and experienced frightening hallucinations and spasms.
Husband Andrew Byfleet discovered she had ordered boxes of antiparistic and dog worming medication online.
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But when questioned by professionals, Mrs Byfleet denied she had taken the medication- or that she had a mental health illness at all.
Her family became more and more concerned as she continued to spiral, taking an ‘accidental’ overdose of painkillers and leaving dozens of ‘suicide notes’ around the house. There were also bruises on her body from where she had ‘pinched’ at herself.
Mrs Byfleet was admitted to the Hartington Unit in May 2018 but her family, who had passed on the notes to staff, were shocked when she was discharged without a formal meeting with close relatives.
Dr Joanna Dilkes, a consultant psychiatrist who conducted an internal review on behalf of Derbyshire Healthcare Trust, said she was ‘satisfied’ with Mrs Byfleet’s safety assessment prior to her discharge. She added: “Kerry denied any suicidal ideation and was planning for the future. She was keen to leave and did not meet the criteria to be detained.
“In my clinical practice, I have not come across a situation in which a patient insists they are not suicidal when they are.
“This was a rare case. Kerry’s family are quite remarkable in their level of involvement, but if a patient wants to be discharged, it’s their decision.
“Ideally, there would be a meeting with everyone in the room, but it’s not always possible.”
Mrs Byfleet received visits from a community psychiatric nurse after her stay at the hospital, but continued to deny she was suicidal. She died on July 10.
Assistant coroner for Derbyshire Peter Nieto concluded Mrs Byfleet had died from suicide brought on by mental health problems.
Mr Byfleet said: “If someone is thinking of taking their own life, they’re not always going to openly admit it, are they?
“Staff went on what Kerry said, despite the fact she was unwell. They did not consult us.
“Mental health services need an overhaul. Families are not taken seriously and their concerns are not acted upon.”
Mr Nieto said: “At the time of Kerry’s death she had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition, namely delusional disorder, and she had fixed and distressing thoughts that her physical condition included parasites in her body.
“Those thoughts had arisen following surgery to her disc vertebrae in 2017.
“On the evidence considered by the court she had undertaken a deliberate act with the intention of taking her own life given the nature of the act, her likely thoughts and distress at the time, previous notes indicating she had previously had thoughts of self harm, and she did not seek help on the day to prevent the act.”