Family pay tribute to ‘kind, sociable, clever’ man whose life was blighted by mental health problems

PUBLISHED: 09:30 18 February 2015

Eastgate House, Thorpe Road, where the Coroner's Court is situated in the ground floor. Picture: Denise Bradley

Eastgate House, Thorpe Road, where the Coroner's Court is situated in the ground floor. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

A family have told how a “kind, sociable, clever” man’s life was blighted by severe mental health problems, after a inquest into his death.

Family statement

After the inquest, the family of Tim Shanahan released this statement: “Tim struggled with severe mental health problems for many years. He did the very best he could to overcome these.

“We are convinced that Tim’s mental health underpinned all his other difficulties.

“The stigma of mental health runs deep yet one in four of us will experience mental health difficulties.

“As a family we are committed to raising awareness of the importance of early intervention services. We wish to work with mental health services to help improve them if possible.

“Tim was a remarkable person. He was compassionate, kind, sociable, clever, quirky, funny, exuberant, imaginative, resourceful, and he had a great sense of fun.

“He had a generosity and warmth about him that touched many lives positively.

“Tim was very much loved and we shall forever miss our chatty, gentle, caring family member.”

Tim Shanahan, 30, was found dead on his sofa on September 7, 2014, by a friend who had gone to his Chantry Road flat in Norwich to check on him in the days following his split from his girlfriend.

Norfolk Coroner’s Court heard yesterday how Mr Shanahan had struggled for years to manage his bipolar disorder, often self-medicating or turning instead to legal highs, illegal drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope with manic episodes in which he did not sleep for days, or with crippling depression.

In a statement read out to the court, Mr Shanahan’s mother Caroline Aldridge told how her eldest son’s problems started at 15, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he was diagnosed with bipolar.

She said the family were close, always celebrating birthdays and Christmas when her son was well enough, but it was not uncommon for him to not contact them for periods of time.

She said: “I think the service in place for people like him could be a lot better,” but added that she recognised the growing pressures on mental health services, as well the difficulties when patients like her son were reluctant to engage with mental health professionals.

Mr Shanahan had been seen by his GP, by the Norfolk Recovery Partnership and had been referred to the mental health trust’s access and assessment team.

The court heard how in the days leading up to his death, Mr Shanahan had been upset after he and his long-term on/off girlfriend had split up.

However, his friend Geoffrey Byfield, who was the last person to see him alive on September 1, said he did not believe that Mr Shanahan would have deliberately taken an overdose.

Toxicology reports found a low concentration of amphetamine, consistent with recreational use. While the pathologist said amphetamine toxicity remained a possibility, the cause of death was given as unascertained.

Coroner Jacqueline Lake said she was satisfied there was no evidence at all that Mr Shanahan intended to take his own life.

She said: “However I can’t say, on the basis of evidence heard, that his death was accidental.

“Sadly there is no evidence for the period immediately before his death.

“In those circumstances I have no option but to record an open conclusion, which I appreciate is unsatisfactory.

“It’s clear from the statements he did have many friends who clearly thought very highly of him. It’s also clear he was very close to his family when he was well.”

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