Young woman’s battle after brother and mum die within weeks of each other

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Holly Ireland wants to help other people struggling with mental health issues after the deaths of her mum and brother

 

Family: Holly lost her mum and brother within the space of a few weeks
Family: Holly lost her mum and brother within the space of a few weeks (Image: James Maloney)

A young woman has revealed her determination to improve local mental health services after her brother and her mum died within weeks of each other.

Holly Ireland was left devastated last May when her younger brother Marshall, who was just 17, died after an incident at a Blackpool building.

However, the tragedy was not to be the only one to hit the family, as just four weeks later Holly’s mum Jane Ireland was found dead at her home in Lytham.

An inquest which concluded this week heard that both Marshall and his mum were under the care of local mental health services at the time of their deaths.

Marshall, a keen footballer who loved fishing, “retreated into himself” after his bulimia worsened and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was twice admitted to a specialist in-patient unit; The Cove in Heysham, which his sister believes made his problems worse.

“He absolutely hated it in there,” Holly said during the inquest.

“There was only one person in there who could get down on his level. He shut himself off to everybody; he was really poorly. I was constantly ringing The Cove but would a doctor speak to me? No.

“They just drugged him up, he didn’t have any therapy, but he was sectioned so it was like we didn’t have a voice.

“I fought so hard to save them both but they’re not here anymore. The Cove turned him into a zombie.”

Tragedy: Marshall's mum was found dead weeks after his death
Tragedy: Marshall’s mum was found dead weeks after his death (Image: Family photo)

Holly believes Marshall was failed by local services and during the inquest the head of Lancashire County Council’s social services admitted that there were failings in Marshall’s care. Senior Coroner Alan Wilson concluded that Marshall’s death was suicide and gave a narrative conclusion in relation to Jane’s death.

Holly is trying to find a positive in the double tragedy she and her family have faced. She has launched a campaign, called Marshall’s Movement, and – with the help of Fylde MP Mark Menzies, hopes to bring her plight to the attention of the government.

The campaign’s website provides “a platform, community and a voice for the people and families that have suffered injustice and neglect at the hands of the broken system that we are currently forced to rely on”.

“Something needs to change,” Holly, 26, told LancsLive.

“I have heard of so many people who have had similar experiences with mental health services and it’s just not on.”

Last week a number of current patients of Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in the region, spoke out about their own experiences following the death of Katie Foulds from Blackburn. Katie died after walking into the sea at Lytham and an inquest into the 22-year-old’s death found she was failed by mental health services.

Patients told LancsLive about their fears that more families will lose loved ones to suicide if local services aren’t improved.

Tragedy: Katie Foulds was just 22 when she died
Tragedy: Katie Foulds was just 22 when she died

There has been a steady increase in the suicide rate in Lancashire between 2007 – 2009 and 2017 – 2019 for all persons (from 11.7 to 13.4 per 100,000 of the population). Residents of Lancaster, Chorley and Preston account for over a third of the deaths from suicide and injury of undetermined intent in the Lancashire area (169 of 421 deaths).

In June 2019, LSCFT was issued with a warning notice by the Care Quality Commission regarding its mental health crisis services. Inspectors found the mental health decision units “were not fit for purpose, they were not being used in the way intended and they persistently failed to meet the basic needs of patients”.

At the time the then chief executive Caroline Donovan described the report as “disappointing” and apologised for the fact that some issues identified in a previous inspection remained. She promised that staff would “work tirelessly to make the required improvements as a matter of urgency”.

A subsequent inspection in 2020 found that although LSCFT had met the requirements of the warning notice, and the mental health decision units had all been closed, the trust’s rating remained as inadequate and it has not been inspected since.

A spokesperson for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said after the inquest into Katie Foulds’ death: “Following Katie’s tragic death, our internal investigation highlighted the importance of communication between teams and with outside agencies involved in her care, and actions have been taken to ensure this is strengthened.

“We urge anyone needing support to call our Mental Health Crisis Line which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 0800 953 0110.”