‘Help those who suffer in silence’

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REM Heezen was only 41 when he ended his life, shortly after the clock struck midnight on January 1 and 2012 began.

Last week, an inquest held for Rem – remembered by many as an outgoing, talented and caring person, who was deeply involved in the Harlestone community where he lived – recorded that he had committed suicide in the home he shared with his civil partner.

Rem’s partner of 10 years, Sam Dobbs, has decided to speak out about Rem’s battle against an illness often stigmatised in society, and the resources provided to deal with it.

BUBBLY AND CARING

“From the outside a lot of people probably weren’t aware that Rem was depressed. He was a very bubbly and caring person,” said Sam.

“He had worked in customer service for most of his life. He loved working with people. He was a people person through and through.”

Although Sam was aware that Rem had suffered from a form of depression in his early life, it was only in the last couple of years that the illness came to the fore again.

“Turning 40 was a big issue for Rem,” said Sam. “I’m told that this is not uncommon. That milestones in a person’s life can trigger people’s depression.

“It was about this time when we realised it was a problem and sought medical advice. He had been seeing his doctor for a while talking about fatigue and not being able to see his life in colour. He struggled to find a reason to get up in the mornings and used to call it ‘existing’ rather than ‘living’.

“We had some wonderful support through our GP. Rem was under the care of the mental health team at Daventry.

“Much of his treatment was through medication, but in later months it was registered that he needed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

“However, we were told there was a six-month waiting list for this, so we had to arrange our own privately, something he was later unable to afford.

“He was essentially provided with what was a sticking plaster, not the treatment they said he needed.”

But it was in the summer, when Rem was made redundant from his job, that his depression deepened.

“It destroyed him that he didn’t have a job,” said Sam.

“He found signing on really traumatic. He had been a customer services team manager and he was over-qualified for most things.

“So, after a month of being redundant, he started his own company, which provided all sorts of services from domestic cleaning to supporting people on their own.

“The irony is had he gone back to work in the New Year, he would have had a full week’s work.

“He would have turned something negative into something positive. We spoke about that in one of the last conversations.

“The other irony was that he was just lifting from his depression. He had told us that he still had suicidal thoughts, but that he had not taken those thoughts further, which was progress from when he had taken an overdose earlier in the year.

“The problem is when someone is starting to lift from depression, that is when they are at the most risk. When they are in the depths of it, they have the intent but not the motivation. When they are starting to lift the motivation comes back.

“The doctors had told us that in that state of mind people can be quite affected by milestones, like New Year.

WORRIED

“On New Year I was working a night shift,” said Sam, who is a district sergeant for Daventry.

“Rem was worried about it. I thought he was worried about me, but we were preparing for a party of 40 guests on January 2 and throughout the day guests had popped in and out.

“Throughout the evening we texted and we spoke on the phone just before midnight, when I heard him uncork the Champagne with my dad, who lives with us.

“He wished me a happy New Year and told me he loved me. I said I would see him at 5am, so to save me some Champagne and I would wake him when I got in.

“He told me I wouldn’t be able to wake him. I thought he meant from sleep, but afterwards he put down his Champagne glass, went upstairs and hanged himself.”

NHS Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said of its provision for those suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts: “It is the commonest cause of death in men under 35 and is the main cause of premature death in people with mental illness. The suicide rate among men is three times as high as it is among women.

“Helping people with depression can be very challenging and distressing for the person, their family, and their friends.

“We provide a countywide service specifically targeted to support people with depression and anxiety (IAPT - Improving Access to Psychological Therapy service), as well as services for people if their depression becomes more complex.

“Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of specialist mental health services across the county in both community and in-patient settings to support individuals suffering from mental health difficulties, including depression. NHFT’s mental health teams work closely with primary care providers, including GPs, to ensure these services can be easily accessed and are delivered locally. Anyone that is concerned about their mental health is advised to talk to their GP who can refer to these services if they are required.”

The Samaritans offer a free and confidential counselling service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 08457 90 90 90.

SINCE Rem Heezen’s death, his partner, Sam, has pledged to increase people’s understanding of depression, and to encourage better out-of-hours services for those suffering from the illness.

“If you break your leg you have a visible injury and you are treated for that break before they put a plaster on it.

“It’s that point when you break your leg that you are most in need of treatment. It’s the same with depression.

“It is an illness, and it’s that point when they are feeling suicidal, not when they first attempt suicide, that they need maximum attention.

“Our crisis never occurred on a Monday to Friday between 9am to 5pm. Most of the people I deal with at work in crisis do not suffer their issues between 9am and 5pm,” said Sam.

“When we went to A&E that night, they had already had three attempted suicides.”

Official suicide statistics released by the Coroner’s Office for Northamptonshire, state 52 people committed suicide in the county in 2011, 47 were men.

This has risen from the year before when 28 men and 10 women committed suicide.

“In a society where more and more people are committing suicide. We need to provide help at the right time for people,” said Sam.

“As someone who works at the cutting edge and sees the problems every day, we need to give this the resources it deserves.

“There is a lot of cluelessness about mental illness in society and many people are still suffering in silence as a result.

“I had friends that suffered from depression before Rem, but I never really got it.

“People think depression is about being sad, it isn’t, our best man Tim Waddell summed it up well when he said: “Rem wasn’t sad - he suffered from depression and was in pain, inside.

“Rem wasn’t faking the smiles and laughter he shared with us all- his smiles and laughter gave him his own moments of respite.”