Weston family made ‘frantic efforts’ for suicidal son – but system failed him

Joseph Haines.

Joseph Haines. - Credit: SUB

The family of an autistic man who killed himself after spending the last 24 hours of his life begging for professional help have hit out at the ‘catalogue of errors’ which led to his death.

Joseph Haines.

Joseph Haines. - Credit: SUB

Joseph Haines – known as Joe – was found hanged at his flat in Prospect Place, Weston-super-Mare, on June 27, 2015.

An inquest into his death, held at Flax Bourton Coroner’s Court, concluded on Friday.

The 25-year-old had Asperger’s syndrome, and suffered from depression, night terrors, stress and anxiety.

Coroner Terrence Moor said Joe’s autism made it impossible to know if he fully understood the consequences of his actions and so recorded an open verdict.

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The day before he died Joe feared he had brain damage and voiced suicidal thoughts. The court was told he had contacted Samaritans, requested an ambulance – but call handlers did not dispatch one – and visited Weston General Hospital’s A&E department.

Joe’s family also contacted his GP – Dr Steven Pearse-Danker – as well as Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership’s crisis team and autism services for adults team, BASS.

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The court was told healthcare workers did not believe Joe was at immediate risk because he showed no suicidal intent, and so he was not given a mental health assessment.

Instead his family were incorrectly told by the crisis team that they ‘do not deal with people who have autism’ – a detail which is now the subject of a formal letter Mr Moor is writing to the mental health trust in a bid to ensure the same mistake does not happen again.

Joe’s mum – Yvonne Haines – could not attend the inquest due to her own poor health, but Joe’s sister Charlotte read out a statement on her behalf.

It said: “Joe was in crisis. Joe turned to a number of agencies for support and help in the 24 hours before he died.

“In addition we, as a family, made frantic efforts to support our son.

“We feel a number of opportunities to prevent this tragedy were missed.”

Joe’s dad, David Haines, was the person who took Joe to A&E on June 26, 2015. But, after close to two hours of waiting, they had to leave before Joe was seen, as his anxiety levels became unbearable.

Mr Haines left his son at home to sleep, but began to worry when he could not reach Joe the next day.

Mrs Haines’ statement says: “David went around to Joe’s flat and found Joe. He immediately called an ambulance and three arrived – but Joe was already dead.

“I was in a nearby shop when David called me. I sensed immediately something was very wrong.

“I asked if Joe was OK and I could feel the terror rising inside of me.

“David said he could not lie to me and Joe was not OK – I collapsed and my daughters had to call an ambulance for me.”

Joe, who went to St Martin’s Primary School and Worle Community School, had two sisters, Charlotte and Ana.

Charlotte told the Mercury: “Joe was loving, caring and the most honest person I have ever met. He was fun and had a great sense of humour – and that is how we will remember him.

“He was very engaging and dedicated in everything he did – he was an excellent chess player and a great gamer. Anything he put his mind to, he would excel at.

“This is a tragedy which happened during the last 24 hours of his life because of so many missed opportunities and a catalogue of errors. As a family we believe this would never have happened had those opportunities been taken.”

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