People who have thoughts of self-harm have been encouraged to be as open as possible about their feelings after a 35-year-old father-of-one took his own life in the aftermath of losing access to his child.
An inquest heard how Maverick Rogers was found dead near Bodmin Parkway railway station on the afternoon of April 24.
Maverick was left devastated when, seven weeks earlier, it was decided he could no longer see his child.
He subsequently sought the help of mental health services, but in his self-referral form Maverick said he had no thoughts of self-harm, and as a result he was not deemed to be a priority for further assessment.
Maverick’s mother, Jeanette Kendall, told the hearing that she had seen her son in a “really depressive state” on many occasions and had been worrying about his welfare for the best part of 20 years.
Maverick told his mother that it would be “better if he wasn’t around” after he was stopped from being able to see the child.
Ms Kendall said: “Maverick could see no way forward in life without [his child].”
She was adamant that Maverick’s loss of access to his child was “the sole reason” behind his actions.
In March 2020, only days after the court’s decision, Maverick self-referred himself to Outlook South West, which provides mental health services to adults.
But by the time of his death seven weeks later, Maverick had not been assessed further. The inquest heard how Maverick answered “not at all” when he was asked in his initial referral form if he had thoughts or intentions of harming himself.
Michael Hodgkinson, from the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said that had Maverick made it known that he had thoughts of self-harm, he would have been prioritised.
Ms Kendall told the hearing that she felt Maverick was “let down” by the trust.
“My son asked for help five days after losing his [child],” she said. “At the point he asked for help, it was very difficult for him to ask for help.
“I do feel that my son has been let down, I know Covid-19 had a part to do with it, I don’t feel staff movement or recruitment should be an excuse for why my son didn’t get an appointment.
“I’m not apportioning blame. If somebody is going to commit suicide, they are going to do it.
“It took seven weeks for him to get an appointment. I don’t want another family to be in the situation I’m in now.”
Dr Hodgkinson told Ms Kendall that the trust is currently seeing most people within 14 days and everybody within 28 days.
“I’m really sorry and I know that’s no compensation to you,” he said. “Had it been known from contact with Mr Rogers that he was a higher risk than he was saying, this would be a null discussion because we would have prioritised him and seen him sooner.”
Andrew Cox, the coroner for Cornwall, said there “isn’t a clinician who has a crystal ball”.
He said: “How do you pick out the ones that are going to do it (harm themselves)? If you’ve got someone who doesn’t tell you the truth or tells you half the truth, how do you pick that up?”
Dr Hodgkinson added: “We are very aware that ideally we want to spend hours and hours with people, talking to their families, but we are dealing with adults who have a right to decide to what degree they wish to engage with us.”
In the days before his death, Maverick told his mother that he was planning to go camping as he “needed to get his head together”, while reassuring her he wouldn’t do anything “silly”.
Maverick told her that he would be in an area without phone signal, which concerned Ms Kendall. Maverick made the decision to take his own life.
“Whilst I was shocked and upset I wasn’t surprised, as in a strange way I was almost expecting something like this to happen one day,” said Ms Kendall.
Coroner Mr Cox recorded a conclusion of suicide.
He said: “I have no reason not to accept Ms Kendall’s reason that her son has been devastated by the loss of his [child]. She described her son as being devastated by the decision and I accept that evidence.
“Mr Rogers, parallel to that, had difficulties of his own. He is to be commended for his courage to self-refer to Outlook South West with the intention of addressing those issues. Tragically, there wasn’t the time for that process to begin.”
Mr Cox was also clear that the trust should not be criticised for the delay in arranging an appointment for Mr Rogers.
“It would not be helpful to speculate on what may or may not have happened had circumstances been different,” said Mr Cox. “It has been an extremely challenging period for a number of organisations and I include in that the coroners’ service, to manage business anything like as normal during the coronavirus pandemic and in particular the lockdown period.
“This is not a case where someone has not had any input. There was an initial assessment, the standard form was used and when asked whether he had any thoughts relating to self-harm, the reply Mr Rogers has given is ‘not at all’.
“I am not at all critical of him for that, it takes time for individuals to develop trust with those they intend to confide in and that is more likely to me to happen over an extended period of time.
“The question was asked and the answer was given, and it seems to be appropriate, given that answer, there wasn’t a higher priority placed on future assessment of Mr Rogers.”
Mr Cox said he is “sure” that Maverick intended to take his own life.
After the inquest hearing, Maverick’s sister, Rhia Harcourt-Rogers, encouraged people to speak out about their feelings as much as possible.
“People should be told to speak a bit more,” she said.
Samaritans policy manager Joe Potter told Cornwall Live that talking can be life-saving.
“Now more than ever, it is important that we don’t lose the power of human connection,” Mr Potter said.
“We might have been physically isolated for months and this has taken a toll on many particularly those who are struggling, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be socially isolated. Talking can be life-saving – whether it’s with a colleague, a family member, friend or a confidential helpline like Samaritans.”
The charity’s confidential helpline is open around the clock, every day of the year, providing a safe place for people to talk.
Whatever you’re going through, you can call the Samaritans any time, from any phone for FREE, on 116 123.
You can email email@example.com, with a maximum response time of 24 hours.
CALM, specifically for men, is a service is open 7 days a week, from 5pm to midnight. Call 0800 58 58 58 or go to www.thecalmzone.net