Man suffocated in suicide bid

PUBLISHED: 08:33 10 September 2008 | UPDATED: 22:19 15 June 2010

A GRIEVING Seaton mother believes her mentally ill son might still be alive today if he received the right treatment.

A GRIEVING Seaton mother believes her mentally ill son might still be alive today if he received the right treatment.Patricia Pouncett, of Roman Way, lost her son Justin Miles, 34, last year when he committed suicide after suffering years of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.She has slammed the government's treatment of the mentally ill - saying they do not look at the cause, rely too easily on medication and do not prioritise funding in that area.She said: "I feel he was let down by the government. He was going to go to a half way place which would have been better for him, but then they closed. It might have helped and he might still be here today. "It would have been helpful if he had proper cognitive therapy, and felt more in control. But some of the root problems don't get solved. Instead such people are dumped in mental health hospitals, treated all the same and bunged up with medication."Mr Miles, of Sea Hill, was found dead at his flat last October 12 by a care worker, with a bag tied around his head. An inquest at Exeter County Hall last week recorded a verdict that he had died of asphyxiation, and his death was a suicide. It was said that he had a history of covering his head with a plastic bag.Deputy Coroner Darren Salter said: "He [Mr Miles] placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated at home. The verdict is therefore suicide. I find that he killed himself since the balance of his mind was disturbed."Ms Pouncett explained she did not blame the mental health staff, who had helped Justin as best they could, but the current system for treating the mentally ill. Feeling frustrated that she was unable to help her son because his condition did not allow physical contact, she feels a halfway house would have enabled some independence, while keeping a watchful eye on him.Justin had a history of attempting suicide and, for this reason, she believes there should have been a more vigilant set up."A year before he died he took an almost fatal overdose," she said. "Within six weeks he was allowed to go home on his own. I was outraged because it was quite obvious he couldn't cope."Ms Pouncett described her son, who studied art at university, as an intelligent and kind man who had a promising future.She believes the problem escalated when - linked to his OCD - he used strong fluids to clean his bath while standing in it, causing severe and permanent nerve damage. Although part of her feels his death was inevitable, she has not yet come to terms with it."I knew he'd killed himself before I was told. Even though you expect it, it still gets you. I can't let go, I'm still numb. "One minute I'm angry at him, then I understand the kind of life he was living and that he just couldn't cope. "He was such a gentle soul - not like a normal man of his age. I would often say he was too sensitive for life. I understand why he did it. He just couldn't take it anymore."It was very frustrating for me because I couldn't help, even though I was only a phone call away."She is hoping to educate people about mental illness, which she believes still has a stigma attached to it.She said: "People tend to be frightened of the mentally ill. But Justin wouldn't have harmed anybody. There tends to be a feeling of shame around it, or people believe those with a mental illness are drinkers, or on drugs."But some people in Seaton were very understanding - taking Justin under their wing and looking after him, for which I'm grateful."Ms Pouncett said she hoped the inquest would finally draw a closure on the whole ordeal, and let her remember Justin for who he was, rather than dwell on his illness. "I shall remember him for his nice nature," she said. "Anybody who got to know him loved him. He brought joy into other people's lives, if not his own."l OCD is a common mental health condition that affects two per cent of the population.l It is characterized by obsessive thoughts that cause anxiety. This leads to rituals or repetitive actions - for example constantly washing your hands, cleaning, counting, arranging or repeating actions, to relieve the anxiety.l For more information, contact OCD-UK, a national charity for sufferers of OCD, on 0845 1203778.


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