Deputy headteacher, 51, committed suicide after support ‘drifted’ during shutdown, hears inquiries

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A deputy headteacher suffering from anxiety and depression committed suicide after support “ drifted ” during lockdown, an inquest has heard.

Donna Louise Gadd, who worked at Wellfield Methodist and Anglican Church School in Burnley, Lancashire, had been suffering from mental health problems for several months before she went missing last April.

The 51-year-old was later found dead in the village of Higham after a house search by police officers.

An inquest held yesterday at Accrington Town Hall concluded that the mother of three had ended her life after an extensive battle with anxiety and depression.

Donna’s husband Richard Gadd, her brother and some other family members attended the hearing.

Donna Louise Gadd (pictured above), who worked at Wellfield Methodist and Anglican Church School in Burnley, Lancashire, had suffered from mental health issues for several months before she went missing last April

Ewan Thomas Cole, part of the patient safety leader at the South Cumbria NHS trust, told the investigation that there were issues with “ continuity ” in Donna’s care.

Due to staffing issues, Donna was visited by several mental health professionals in 2019 with little chance of developing a relationship with one person.

Mr Cole also admitted that Donna’s case could have “ drifted ” because mental health workers had failed to follow up on unanswered calls to the deputy chief in March 2020.

Mr. Gadd said, “Donna acknowledged that Covid could not give her the care she needed.

‘But she didn’t really understand how she was going to get better, I honestly don’t think she thought she was going to get better.

Her family and friend gave her hope and she was told, but sometimes she went further and did not acknowledge it.

“There were people rooting for her, who wanted her to get better, but her illness kept her from seeing it.”

Mr. Gadd also pointed out that Donna had complained that she had been “assaulted” and was being addressed “inappropriately” with claims that doctors had told her, “There’s nothing we can do for you.”

Mr Cole agreed that a complaint had been filed and settled, he said he was disappointed to learn that such rhetoric was being used at the trust.

Coroner Richard Taylor told Gadd he had “no choice” but to decide that his wife had died by suicide.

He said, ‘My job at this hearing is to find out who, what and where, I can never answer why.

‘You will have your own opinion as to why, all I can say is that I know that the stress of life can affect someone in many different ways.

Due to staff issues, Donna (pictured) was visited by several mental health professionals in 2019 with little chance of her establishing a relationship with one person

Due to staff issues, Donna (pictured) was visited by several mental health professionals in 2019 with little chance of her establishing a relationship with one person

“I can only offer my condolences for your loss. I am of the opinion that Donna was in conflict with herself and to some extent did not want to participate in the treatment that was offered to her.

That’s not a criticism of her, I’m sure she had her own reasons for it. She felt helpless and hopeless and it shows in the note she left you, Mr. Gadd, she made her intentions perfectly clear in that note.

When I consider whether someone has taken their own life deliberately, I have to think about alternative explanations. In this case there are no alternative explanations. ‘

Donna went missing at her home in Higham on April 21 at around 5 a.m. and left a note for her husband.

Mr. Gadd contacted the police who were looking for the missing teacher. Neighbors and relatives would also join the search.

PC Thomas Farrell of Lancashire Constabulary, also present at the inquest, found Donna in the Sabden Fold area around mid-morning.

Donna had mental health issues following disciplinary action at her school in 2019, the topic of which was not discussed during the inquest.

She was later referred to the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust mental health crisis team on June 24, 2019.

Dr. Gurdaval Singh, a psychiatrist on the team, had personally treated Donna over concerns about her safety after expressing plans to end her life and choosing to give her the antidepressant Sertraline in combination with Diazepam.

On June 27, after another meeting with Donna, Dr. Singh changed her medication from diazepam to an alternative drug called Promethazine, as it became clear that the school teacher was not using the diazepam.

Later, Dr. Singh found that Donna also refused to take the Promethazine and was storing the medication, her prescription was blocked and she was asked to return the drugs.

On July 26, after further assessment, Donna agreed to spend a week at Oak House, a crisis psychiatric facility in Burnley. Her medication was changed to mirtazapine, and she agreed to spend time with the mental health crisis team.

Donna introduced herself with her family.  She went missing at her home in Higham on April 21 at around 5 a.m. and left a note for her husband

Donna introduced herself with her family. She went missing at her home in Higham on April 21 at around 5 a.m. and left a note for her husband

After the seven days, Dr. Singh was told that Donna had spent much of her time in Oak House in her room, taking her medication only for the last few days.

The teacher was later classified under the mental health law and spent two months in the hospital before being discharged in October.

She tried to end her life later that month.

Dr Singh said: ‘She had no hope, she would say and imply that she was hopeless. I tried to instill in her the idea that things could improve and give her some hope, but she was hopeless. ‘

When Donna left the hospital, she was assigned a mental health coordinator, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions that hit last year, they were unable to conduct home visits.

Mr. Taylor concluded today that Donna has ended her life.

Mr. Gadd thanked the medical examiner, the mental health personnel who helped his wife, as well as his neighbors and family who helped find the teacher when she went missing.

Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans toll-free on 116 123 or drop by Samaritans.org

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