A dad who asked to be sectioned while suffering a mental health crisis died trying to cut down on the alcohol he used to numb his pain.
Steven Rimmer, from Huyton, struggled with depression and alcoholism but tried to reduce the amount he was drinking – only to suffer a catastrophic alcohol withdrawal seizure.
An internal investigation is now underway at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust after his family complained that his cries for help were ignored by mental health staff.
Steven's heartbroken sister, Victoria Gallagher, described how his family including his 15-year-old son had to say goodbye as he lay in a coma.
He passed away as they played one of his favourite songs, 'Comfortably Numb' by Pink Floyd.
Steven, 48, had struggled with his mental health over the years, with the death of his brother Lee Rimmer in Jersey in July 2014 having a particularly significant impact.
The popular and charismatic music lover began the year in a decent frame of mind, enjoying a new job as a site manager for a scaffolding company.
But as coronavirus lockdown measures were imposed, his company did not extend his probation period and Steven began to feel increasingly isolated and down.
Victoria told the ECHO: "He had an obsessive compulsive disorder for helping people. He was a big, well known guy for his loving nature and his charisma and his charm.
"But he was very open about his depression and his mental health, he would post things on his Facebook page about his head going and people would ask if he was ok."
After a suicide attempt in 2017, Steven was given some medication but was not referred for psychiatric help after being seen at Whiston Hospital.
Victoria said his family raised money for him to see a private psychiatrist, Dr Neil Brener, who suggested his problems with drinking and his depression were connected to childhood trauma.
Despite making some progress understanding his mental health problems, the strain caused by lockdown seemed to send Steven into a downwards spiral.
In May he was found by a neighbour collapsed in his hallway with the door wide open, and was taken to A&E.
Victoria said Steven admitted he "needed help" and was given medication by an alcohol withdrawal nurse.
The hospital allowed Victoria and one of Steven's friends to remain with him, but when he was finally seen by a mental health nurse Victoria said they were appalled.
Steven was questioned about his state of mind and said he had been "using alcohol to numb his pain as he missed his brother so much" and that "losing his job and Covid-19 was making it difficult to feel normal and sleep".
In a complaint to North West Boroughs, Victoria said: "The mental health nurse blew out a sigh as if Steven was an inconvenience. He fired a series of questions at him.
"One question poised was; 'what do you want Steven?'
"Steven answered 'I want to be sitting where you are and helping people as I love to help people, but I was kicked out of school at 14….
"At this point, I was appalled by his lack of professionalism and interjected into what I can only describe as Steven having to suffer the Spanish Inquisition."
Victoria says she told the nurse Steven and his family wanted him to be sectioned, however the nurse replied what they were looking for "did not exist" and they needed to call the alcohol withdrawal team.
She says they were told sectioning her struggling brother would be like "putting a pork chop in a fruit bowl" and there would be "no further input would be made from the mental health team.
Steven later told Victoria: "What was the f****** point of getting help? The system is broken like the education system is, I am just another brick in the wall."
Victoria said: "He knew he was going under. He kept saying 'whatever happens I love you'.
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"He would say 'I'm sorry for what I'm putting you through, it's just hard to come off the booze sis."
Victoria says she and her three children were desperately trying to raise money for private treatment, and had run three marathons – but with the total at £4,500 they were still some way short.
On July 21, Steven collapsed and suffered a 20 minute seizure after trying to reduce the amount he was drinking.
Victoria was told her brother had suffered a cardiac arrest and lung damage, and eventually the decision was made not to resuscitate him.
In a eulogy read at his funeral in St Agnes Church, Huyton, Victoria said: "People say they were blessed and honoured to know Steven and that they will miss his beautiful face.
"Steven struggled to cope with the changing world and the damage humans were doing to it and to each other.
"He struggled with the amount of sin, greed, conflict and injustice in the world.
"This led to a deepening sense of despair as he couldn’t do anything to change it.
Helplines and support groups
The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you're feeling, or if you're worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won't show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
- Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
- Young Persons Advisory Service – Providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. tel: 0151 707 1025 email: email@example.com
- Paul's Place – providing free counselling and group sessions to anyone living in Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"He always wanted to rescue and help others but couldn’t see that he needed rescuing and help too – he sometimes felt he was ‘too far gone’ to be saved.
"In recent times he battled sadness and depression – longing for peace, harmony, love and mutual respect.
"The fight that he had before, began to wane; he just wanted to rest, sleep and gain freedom."
John Heritage, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive at North West Boroughs trust, said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Steven’s family and friends during what must be a very difficult time.
“We have acknowledged the recent complaint from Steven’s family and are currently carrying out an investigation into the concerns they have raised.
“If anyone feels they need urgent mental health support, please contact the dedicated 24/7 mental health crisis line for Knowsley on: 0800 051 1508."