The devastated mother of a domestic violence victim from Chesterfield who took her own life has begged others struggling with suicidal thoughts to ‘please, please talk to someone’.
Mum-of-two and soon to be grandmother Claire Johnson was just 36 when she hanged herself in her flat in Alfreton in August 2018.
An inquest held at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court today (Monday, May 13) heard that Claire was a ‘very loving’ but troubled young woman who was facing ‘many difficulties’ at the time of her tragic death.
She had moved into temporary accommodation in Alfreton from a Women’s Refuge centre after suffering repeated domestic violence.
Claire was also battling a number of mental health problems including depression, emotionally unstable personality disorder, PTSD and chronic alcoholism- most of which were brought on by a traumatic experience in which she found her then boyfriend hanged while she was pregnant.
Though she was ‘making plans for the future’ with her children, the court heard there was a sharp ‘decline’ in Claire’s mental state in the days leading up to her death.
She was in the process of filing a divorce from her husband, with whom she had an ‘highly turbulent’ relationship.
On August 17 she placed something around her neck after arriving at A&E in a ‘heavily intoxicated’ state, but was later discharged to stay at mum Lena Dunn’s house for her safety.
On August 20, Claire seemed better and returned to her flat in Alfreton, where she was living with her brother James.
Before James had moved in, Claire was often frightened and ‘slept in the lounge’- she felt ‘much safer’ with her brother around.
But James was at work that night when sister, Natalie, received a call from Claire during which she told her she was ‘going to kill herself’.
Natalie kept Claire on the phone for as long as possible, telling her she was going to be ok, before the line suddenly ‘went dead’.
She drove round to Claire’s flat with a friend where they managed to gain access to the property. Sadly, it was too late.
Natalie, who was distraught throughout the inquest, said: “I did everything I could to save her.”
Police constable Elizabeth Terry, who was the first responding officer at the scene, said that Claire was a ‘domestic violence victim’ and officers had visited her earlier that day to speak with her about an incident involving her husband Christopher Johnson in which she had sustained a ‘broken nose and scratches on her arms and legs’.
She said: “The couple were very on-and-off, breaking up then getting back together. Claire would try to keep this a secret from her family due to their dislike of him. It is believed she still missed Christopher.”
A toxicology report showed ‘profound intoxication’, along with sertraline, diazepam and other medications ‘at above therapeutic levels’.
Assistant coroner for Derbyshire, Peter Nieto, concluded that Claire had died from suicide by hanging, mixed mental health issues and alcohol misuse.
He said: “Claire’s family were trying to oversee her safety.
“Despite the incident at the hospital, she did not tell anyone that she intended to take her own life.
“On the balance of probabilities, Clare undertook a deliberate act with the intention of taking her own life when she hung herself given the nature of the act, her depression and distressed mental state.
“She had left farewell notes to those close to her and on the evidence she was very intoxicated, which would have affected her thinking and actions.”
Following the inquest, Claire’s family spoke to the Derbyshire Times, describing Claire as a person who’d ‘give you her last dime’.
“She was so loving,” said mum Lena. “A ‘do anything for anyone’ kind of girl, especially for her children. They were her whole world.
“Saddest of all, Claire was going to be a grandma and didn’t know.
“She’d have been straight over to her son’s house. She would have been absolutely over the moon.”
Lena also raised concerns about underfunding in the mental health sector.
She added: “There’s just not enough support for people like Claire. I remember her sobbing on my kitchen floor saying mum, I need help.
“When she was discharged from hospital, I wasn’t told what had happened. Three days later, she was dead.
“There was no way I’d have let her go back to that flat if I’d have known. She would have stayed with me until she was better.
“Claire pulled the rug out from under all our feet. None of us saw it coming.
“I cannot put this across enough. If you are struggling please, please talk to someone.
“Tell them how you’re feeling. That person you love might seem fine, the next day they might be gone.”
If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone.
Help and support is available right now if you need it. You don’t have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.
SAMARTIANS- for everyone
Call: 116 123
PAPYRUS – for people under 35
Call: 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text: 07786 209697
CHILDLINE – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill
THE SILVER LINE – for older people
Call 0800 4708090