Father of seven who took his own life was failed says widow
Shane Williams committed suicide after suffering years of pain
By Sarah Ward
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Father of seven Shane Williams took his own life at the age of 47. He had been living with severe back pain for many years and had been suffering from mental health problems, hearing voices, which his wife Louisa says was a side effect of all the medication he was on.
His suicide in August 2019 came just two months after he was discharged from an eight week stay at a psychiatric hospital run by Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT) and Louisa, says more should have been done to help her husband who she describes as ‘one in a million’.
Louisa has decided to speak out after reading an NN Journal article last month in which a father told of the struggles he had to get sufficient care for his suicidal daughter who was continually discharged from inpatient care by NHFT and made multiple attempts on her life.
“I know that pain of having to protect Shane and being constantly worried about him,” she says about why she has decided to speak out now. She wants more help for those who, like her husband, battle with their mental health.
Shane was working as a bouncer in Kettering when he met Louisa in the early 2000s. Then 32, he was suffering from back pain then but was managing it, by working out in the gym.
However when he met Louisa, he was not suffering from the depression that went on to blight his life in later years. But as time went on the pain of going to the gym became too much and so he stopped going. He was also not getting much sleep due to the pain and so had little energy.
The couple, who married in 2016, went on to have four children (Shane already had children from a previous relationship) but as the years went on, the constant pain meant Shane was unable to work.
“His lower back was all fused together. Every movement he made - his arms, his legs, it all hurt his back.
“He used to say, ‘what is the point of going to the doctors’. They can’t do anything for me. They can’t operate on me. I’m fucked.”
Shane was put on various medications, and Louisa reels off a list of the many different painkillers and opiates he was prescribed over the years. He also topped up his prescriptions with paracetamol. Towards the end of his life he was chronically addicted to the medication.
He became depressed as he was unable to see a way out. Louisa also thinks the side effects of the medication prescribed to him by his GP were causing him psychosis.
“When I met him he was a healthy man. The more the pain kicked in, the more painkillers they gave him - different antidepressants and muscle relaxers and eventually it just got to the point - he was sitting there telling me he hears voices in his head. He doesn't know what to think anymore, what was real and what wasn't real.”
In January 2019, following an attempt to jump off a bridge, he took an overdose. He went into a coma and almost died, but thankfully pulled through.
In April 2019 he was having major mental health struggles and was admitted to the Avocet ward at St Mary’s Hospital in Kettering. He stayed for several weeks, but Louisa thinks he was not able to fully engage with the inpatient services because of his constant pain. While in there he was helped to get his own flat - while remaining friends the couple’s relationship had broken down - but he was discharged before he wanted to go home. Louisa says he had told St Mary’s he was not ready to leave.
He moved into his own place in Kettering, but Louisa says he was not given the aftercare support he had been promised.
“I rang Avocet and said you released him on one day’s notice. You told him he would have aftercare support. You have given him nothing.
“He had to rely on support from me, the kids and the school.”
It was just two months later that Shane took another overdose and tragically died. Louisa had gone round to his flat after he had not responded to his daughter’s text to him - something he never did.
She says she knew as soon as she arrived at his door that he had attempted suicide. She called the police who broke down the door and found Shane in the house. He died on arrival at hospital.
“I think St Mary’s let him down when he needed it the most,” Louisa says. To be given one days notice to be kicked out. Even though he said he wasn't ready to leave they told him they had let his room out already to another patient. He had no choice but to leave. When it came down to it he had to be kicked out into the real world again.
“Fighting for things himself, with all that was going on in his head. When they could have been helping him with that still. They offered him that care support package but they didn't deliver it. I don't see how anybody does that with a case like that.”
Louisa is now bringing up her four young children without their father. Her youngest was just 18 months old when Shane died.
“He was an amazing dad,” Louisa says “He was like no other dad you’ve ever seen. He did housework. He looked after them when they were poorly. He cooked every single day. He helped with the school runs - he literally did everything. When they hurt themselves he dealt with that. He took them to every immunisation jab because I am scared of needles. If we ever needed anything he would get it for us.That’s just the way Shane was. He was one in a million.”
Shane was a non drinker, but had a taste for a daily Red Bull. At his funeral every mourner had to buy a drink of the caffeinated beverage before they could purchase an alcoholic drink. Whenever Louisa and her children visit Shane’s grave they take a can of his favourite drink and each have a sip each in his memory.
Louisa is clear he was failed by the system. She says he was just prescribed medication and he needed much more support with his mental health problems.
“He needed someone to get to the root of his problems. He needed his mental health and depression to be dealt with.”
NN Journal contacted NHFT. A spokesman said:
“Our ongoing sympathy goes out to the gentleman’s family and friends for their tragic loss.
“Hospital discharge is planned with the service user and carers (if the service users agrees for them to be present) at a discharge planning meeting within the ward round. At the meeting the service user meets with Consultant Psychiatrist and the team with representation from any community workers providing ongoing community care. This meeting is to identify the support and intervention required on leaving hospital and taking into account the service user choices and wishes as well as clinical presentation, this plan is individual to the service user and is their plan, developed in co-production.
“In addition, we work with housing organisations and social care to ensure not only health concerns but also practical issues that impact on mental health are included in their plan.
“Following discharge all service users are contacted on the day of discharge by phone and an appointment arranged within three days of discharge with a mental health practitioner to provide support and ensure community plans are in place and accessible for the service user.
“This may be community plans with an NHFT community service or may be an activity for their wellbeing that supports them, such as community activity or contact with a voluntary sector organisation. All service users receive details of mental health support services upon discharge should they require support, including crisis telephone support and crisis café information.
“While on our wards, all inpatients have a full medical review including their medication, any changes are advised to the GP through an immediate medication notification from the ward staff and again within the discharge letter from medical staff.
“Our processes were followed in this case and no concerns were raised in the follow up meetings following discharge. We are dedicated to making a difference with our service users and their families. If anyone has any feedback or concerns about the care we have provided we would encourage them to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison service to ensure that we can fully review their concerns.”
The organisation says that since Shane’s death its services were inspected by the Care Quality Commission and given an outstanding rating. It is currently doing a review to transform community mental health services after an increase in funding.
In March 2020 in partnership with charity Mind it introduced the 24 hour mental health number which takes on average 300 calls per day.
The mental health number can be called on 0800 448 0828 anytime, any day. Six crisis (run by MIND and NHFT cafes are also run at six locations across the county seven days a week.
Anyone who is struggling with their mental health or feeling suicidal can also call the Samaritans on 116 123.