Men urged to talk about mental health after pensioner with ‘desperately broken heart’ took his own life

Men have been urged to open up about their mental health following an inquest into the death of a grieving husband who took his own life.

Anthony Smith, 82, of Mckerchar Close, Lancing, had told family and friends that he did not want to outlive his wife, Joyce, who had Alzheimer’s disease, an inquest at Crawley Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday (March 18).

The inquest heard that Mr Smith had struggled with depression after the couple’s son, Mark, was fatally hit by a car in 1997 and had ‘pushed himself away’ from the rest of his family.

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The tragedy took its toll on the pair, who had been together since 1968, and in 2009 Mrs Smith began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the inquest heard.

The inquest was held at Crawley Coroner's Court

In a coroner’s report, the couple were described as ‘inseparable’ and the former builder was said to have been detrmined to care for her.

Speaking at the inquest, Mr Smith’s brother-in-law, Ray Francis, said Mr Smith would rarely discuss his feelings.

“We invited him to come to Sunday lunch and things so many times, but he never did,” said Mr Francis.

“Every time you saw him he’d say ‘I’ve had enough, I’m gonna go’. For a number of years he said to me ‘I love her so much, I can’t live without her. When she goes, I’m gonna go’.

“They worshipped each other. They loved each other. What caused the final straw, I don’t know. Instead of coming to family or friends, he pushed himself away. He wanted to be on his own.”

Mr Francis said that in the days before Mr Smith took his own life, he had told him that his wife no longer recognised him.

He was found hanged in his garden shed on December 11, last year.

Assistant coroner Christopher Wilkinson said his son’s death and wife’s Alzheimer’s had had a ‘cumulative effect’ on his mental health.

“It’s clear that whatever his reasons may have been for not talking, and it may well have been that men tend to not want to open up to the same degree as women do, it’s a terribly sad thing,” he said.

“I think some problems can be overcome by sharing, but it is a trait. He had talked to others – it’s clear from the evidence that Sussex Partnership had some time with him. He had first contact with community mental health nurse in 2016 and was diagnosed as having adjustment disorder with features of depression.

“It is a tragic and very sad case in relation to both Anthony and Joyce who obviously were a very close couple, since 1968 when they first met. They’d had their son Mark together who tragically died in 1997.

“From all that time, that chain of tragedy started in 1997 and I would agree that neither he nor possibly Joyce recovered from that.”

He concluded that Mr Smith’s death was a result of an ‘intentional act’.

“Anthony Smith did take his own life, as a result of a desperately broken heart in the loss of Joyce to dementia,” he said.

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