Coroner calls for more mental illness education
10:09 14 February 2013
A coroner yesterday called for more education about mental illness at an inquest of a Norfolk father-of-three.
Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said he hoped the hearing into the death of Steven Drane, 51, who was found hanging last year in Yaxham after suffering with bipolar disorder, highlighted mental health as an important issue.
Mr Drane had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in November 2011, three months before his death on March 2 last year.
After a discussion with doctors where he had shown no sign of having suicidal thoughts, he had been granted a day’s leave on the condition he would return to the hospital by 5.30pm.
But when his parents, June and Roy, went to collect their son at 5pm, they found him hanging, and despite paramedics’ efforts, he died at his home.
With the 11-person jury sitting at the inquest, Mr Armstrong said: “I want to make the point that in general terms there needs to be more done to educate people about mental disorders, including bi-polar.
“He [Mr Drane] suffered from the illness, but it wasn’t his fault.”
He added that it was now time to move away from mental disorders being thought of as weakness, and said: “There should be no difference between a mental and a physical illness.”
Mr Drane was described during the hearing in Norwich as a “charming chap” who was clever, creative and giving to all he knew.
But he had suffered with mental health issues for 27 years, diagnosed as bipolar disorder which caused him to experience significant moments of high elation, followed by lows.
His sister, Karen Drane, of Morton on the Hill, described her brother as a “devoted father” and urged for there to be a better public understanding about the illness, something she felt she now only fully understood after Mr Drane’s death.
She said: “We knew some of these factors [causing bipolar] but we didn’t realise all of them.”
She added: “Steven had a great relationship with other people in similar circumstances, and was happy to give his time up to talk to them about it.”
The court heard that for most of his life Mr Drane had lived with his illness, working at the family business, Norwich Sheet Metal, as a fabricator.
But in November 2011, the emergency services were called to Mr Drane’s home where he had tried to set fire to his house, thought to be an attempted suicide.
Almost three weeks later Mr Drane was sectioned and taken to Hellesdon Hospital.
Doctors who appeared as witnesses at the inquest described Mr Drane’s intelligence, and how he had good insights into his illness.
Dr Ashish Pandey, a psychiatrist who looked after Mr Drane, said: “He knew his condition quite well and was able to tell when he was unwell.”
The family’s life-long GP from Mattishall Surgery on Dereham Road in Mattishall described how Mr Drane continually wanted to be involved in the decisions involving his medication, and said: “He had a full insight into the nature of his illness.”
A solicitor from Mills and Reeve law firm appeared on behalf of the NHS mental health trust.
The coroner emphasised that the decision of staff at Hellesdon Hospital to grant Mr Drane leave on the day of his death was based on their belief that he was stable and wasn’t showing any worrying signs.
The jury returned a verdict of suicide while suffering with a mental disorder while being detained under the Mental Health Act at a time when he had been granted a day’s leave.
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