Grieving family of Peacehaven man say he was ‘let down’ by mental health services

Eastbourne Town Hall
Eastbourne Town Hall

The family of a man who died after drinking 15 cans of energy drink a day say he was ‘let down’ by mental health services.

Justin Bartholomew took his life in a field at Seaford Golf Club on August 1 last year, an inquest heard today (Thursday).

The 25-year-old’s family believe his excessive consumption of energy drinks and a lack of intervention from the crisis team contributed to his death.

A scaffolder, Mr Bartholomew had suffered depression since the breakdown of his marriage in 2016, and the subsequent breakdown of another relationship.

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall heard he had attempted to take his life just two days previously and at the time a professional had only deemed him a medium risk of suicide.

Team leader of urgent care Linzi Whiteman spoke with him at the scene in a park in Seaford on July 31.

She said, “He said there was a lot of overwhelming feelings he was having. He’d researched ways of ending his life.

“He said he was finding it difficult to manage, he presented low self esteem and found it difficult to switch these racing thoughts off. We had a long talk about anxiety and how debilitating that can be.”

She told the court she advised him to speak to the crisis team the following day, but decided he did not need to have a Mental Health Act Assessment.

Coroner Alan Craze said to Ms Whiteman, “There was enough evidence before you of a man in complete crisis.”

The day of his death, Mr Bartholomew was seen by psychiatrist Dr V Wickramasinghe, who found he was a high risk of suicide but did not recommend him for a Mental Health Act Assessment.

Mr Craze read from a serious incident report which mental health services had provided following Mr Batholomew’s death. He said, “It’s my view that they should have urgently done a Mental Health Act Assessment.

“I know I’m speaking with the influence of hindsight, but I’m looking at the evidence and in my view there was ample evidence that would have led to that course.”

The court also heard Mr Batholomew called crisis support team in the minutes leading up to his death.

Speaking to Vijay Kaleechum, who compiled the SI report, Mr Craze said, “You can’t get much more of an indication than a man saying ‘I have got a noose around my neck I’m going to jump’.

“There was good opportunity for Linzi and a better opportunity for doctor Wickramasinghe to actually do something that would have retained his security. For how long nobody knows, but at least it would have got him out of this crisis.”

He concluded Mr Bartholomew had taken his own life. He expressed his sympathies with the family.

Speaking outside the inquest Justin’s father Keiron Bartholomew said, “He was let down by the crisis team. We always felt the team didn’t do what they should have done, as heard today. They were all over the place.

“The fact that three or four attempts to take his life...He should have been assessed under the Mental Health Act and sectioned as requested by his brother a few times.

“If he had been sectioned he could have still been here.”

Since his death the family have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive energy drink consumption. With the help of MP Maria Caulfield, the legal age for buying energy drinks has risen.

Mr Batholomew added, “He was drinking 15 cans a day consistently for three months. He became addicted to it. It affected his mental health state.

“By being pumped up with caffeine he was going on a legal high. He was buzzing off his head then in the evening coming back off it and drinking alcohol.

“He worked with me every day, so I saw it. I tried to wean him off. They send you up then drop you down again.”

Mr Batholomew’s mother, Simone Lodomez, described him as a sociable young man who was obsessed with Marvel Superheroes and enjoyed gaming and drinking with his friends.

She said in a statement at the inquest, “He had a big smile on his face and a cheeky grin.”