Pleas for help from mental health services were made by Westgate dad-of-three Ben Stone in the year leading up to his tragic death on Monday (June 10).
The body of the 34-year-old was found in a wooded area off Tivoli Road, just 14 months after younger brother Lee Thrumble was found dead.
Sister Lucy Thrumble said Ben, who was known to friends by the nickname Shine, had desperately tried to get mental health help but had been turned away because of waiting lists.
She said: “Just a few weeks ago Ben tried desperately to get support from the Beacon but was told he would have to wait a year even though he was “on their books”. He was turned away by self referral due to being under the Beacon.
“He tried to get readmitted to St Martins for the third time via the crisis team but again there was a waiting list. Ben made the decision to “man up”……. But the facade took its toll.
“You can be there unconditionally for the people you love and would do and have done anything to help lessen their suffering but until the Government and NHS take these matters seriously and stop treating patients like cattle, in and out, job done, nothing will change.”
Scaffolding company boss Ben had battled with depression and had tried to take his life last year, unaware that Lee had also been driven to that heartbreaking measure the same day. Lee died the following day.
Ben had also been impacted by the loss of his best friend Luke Williams who lost his life to cancer in 2014.
Lucy said mental ill health had left her brothers “in turmoil” and feeling alone, although they knew they were loved.
Ben was the eldest of seven siblings and a devoted dad to his son and two daughters.
Lucy said: “ Ben was a hard worker, people pleaser and absolutely adored and loved his children and family, family was very important to him. He also loved his wife Rachael and her family with his whole heart. He was, and is still, loved by so many and it’s absolutely heartbreaking that he couldn’t escape his own mind.
“He loved sports, especially football and supported Arsenal FC, like his Dad (who sadly passed away 10 years ago). He had a wonderful and supportive network of family and friends.”
Lucy said her grieving family is left with “loving memories” of her Dad and brothers Lee and Ben, who remain “phenomenally precious within my heart, mind and soul.”
She added: “I just want there to be more funding and support for others going through difficult times.”
SpeakUp CIC campaign for service funding
At the end of last year the shrinking provision of mental health services in Thanet and east Kent was highlighted by members of a Margate-based support group.
SpeakUp CIC, which offers peer support and advice for people in Thanet and east Kent living with mental health needs, launched a campaign to gain more funding for vital services.
The group said Thanet is not getting enough funding despite having the second highest prevalence in the country of people with mental health needs.
Members hoped their action would help to get more community services, such as day centres, and to highlight the pressures on professional services such as The Beacon in Ramsgate and access to inpatient provision in Canterbury.
The group said The Beacon, at Manston, struggled to cope with demand and GPs are overstretched and underfunded.
Some members said they were unable to get access to inpatient beds and the 9am to 5pm hours at The Beacon left them adrift if a crisis occurred outside those times.
Inpatient services are looked after by the Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust.
The trust has a budget of £180million for 2018/19 to provide services across a wide area. These include inpatient care at St Martin’s and the trust is commissioned to provide 174 inpatient beds, with five inpatient wards based in Canterbury.
The Trust has been contacted for a response about Ben’s inability to access services.
District and county councillor Karen Constantine has written to Caroline Selkirk, Managing Director for the four east Kent clinical commissioning groups, and a meeting is being arranged to discuss mental health provision in Thanet.
Cllr Constantine said: “My first thoughts are with the person who has lost their life and their families and friends. It’s always such a very sad loss of life and potential. I would urge anyone to contact the Samaritans and to reach out to family friends and even strangers.
“However it seems to me that we potentially have a rise in suicides, and I’m looking into that urgently to ascertain the full facts. I’m also concerned about the local residents who are often ‘first responders’. I want to make absolutely certain that we aren’t seeing an escalation, that mental health services are genuinely accessible, that members of the public are also offered appropriate support.”
Cllr Constantine urges people to contact her with their concerns which she will raise at a senior level in the NHS and within the county council.
Kent’s suicide rate is higher than the national average, particularly amongst men. Men are at greater risk of dying by suicide than women, and middle-aged men are at the highest risk.
There were 10 recorded suicides in Thanet in 2017, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This was reduced from 23 in 2016 and 22 in 2015.
Anyone suffering with suicidal thoughts should contact the Samaritans on 116 123.
Alternatively the Release the Pressure campaign urges people to seek help by calling Freephone 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The campaign website can be found at www.releasethepressure.uk
A list of community mental health services can also be found on the Live Well website at https://livewellkent.org.uk/in-your-area/thanet/
Help for those left behind
Set up by Jackie Bergeron, SOBS – Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide – Thanet, helps other families in the same way that a group helped her after the loss of her son.
The group meets in St John’s Community Centre, Victoria Road, Margate, every last Tuesday in the month from 7.30pm till 9.30pm. The group is independently run but comes under the umbrella of the national SOBS charity. Find SOBS Thanet on facebook here
For further details call 07522 955806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org