Gareth Etchells-Height: Sheffield man feeling down told to 'watch TV' night before he died, inquest hears

An inquest heard how Gareth Etchells-Height was encouraged to go to bed and watch television the night before he died
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Gareth Etchells-Height, who was aged 42 and had been diagnosed with Asperger's, was tragically found dead at a residential ‘step-down’ facility in Sheffield on April 24 of last year.

On the first day of Mr Etchells-Height’s inquest, on October 10, Sheffield’s Medico-Legal Centre heard that he had a history of mental health problems. His parents, Michael and Caroline, raised a number of concerns relating to his care, and that they believed his death could have been prevented.

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Assistant coroner for South Yorkshire West, Alexandra Pountney, heard that in the months before he died, Mr Etchells-Height had a deterioration in his mental health, and had attempted to end his life on several occasions.

An inquest into the death of Gareth Etchells-Height has taken place at Sheffield's Medico-Legal Centre.An inquest into the death of Gareth Etchells-Height has taken place at Sheffield's Medico-Legal Centre.
An inquest into the death of Gareth Etchells-Height has taken place at Sheffield's Medico-Legal Centre.

On February 17, Mr Etchells-Height was taken for an urgent mental health assessment at the Longley Centre, at the Northern General Hospital, after British Transport Police found him on railway tracks while experiencing a psychotic episode.

During the assessment carried out that day, Mr Etchells-Height described himself as “psychotic and paranoid”, and experiencing suicidal thoughts. He was struggling to sleep out of fear, felt he was being watched and he asked to be admitted to hospital. But it was decided that he “did not require admission”.

Coroner Pountney said: “I’m struggling to understand how on that basis he has not qualified to meet the eligibility for admission.

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“He feels that the community mental health service aren’t listening to him.”

That night Mr Etchells-Height refused to go home and spent the night in Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust's ‘Place of Safety’, a suite for people experiencing mental ill health.

On February 19, Mr Etchells-Height was referred by the police once more and detained under the mental health act. He was admitted to an acute mental health inpatient ward known as Maple Ward, a 19-bed mixed gender unit at the Longley Centre at the Northern General Hospital.

It was also heard that he had used cannabis for a number of years, but had recently increased his usage which was considered as a factor for his psychosis.

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Giving evidence, Dr Anil Puranik, a consultant psychiatrist at Maple Ward, said Mr Etchells-Height continued to experience suicidal thoughts and paranoia, but he had “settled” over the first week on the ward. He was diagnosed with unspecified non-organic psychosis, and he began taking an anti-psychotic drug on March 3.

Gareth Etchells-Height was a service user at Wainwright Crescent (pictured) at the time of his death.Gareth Etchells-Height was a service user at Wainwright Crescent (pictured) at the time of his death.
Gareth Etchells-Height was a service user at Wainwright Crescent (pictured) at the time of his death.

On March 11 he said he started to feel “better” and was not having suicidal thoughts. On March 22 he was discharged from the ward to Wainwright Crescent, a step-down facility where service users can focus on their recovery with support from staff before they are discharged back into the community.

On March 29, Mr Etchells-Height told a staff member he was feeling down and had “no motivation to get out of bed”. He asked for help to get him up in the mornings. On April 1, the staff checked whether he had been taking his medication and found he had not.

A statement from the family said they felt Mr Etchells-Height had been “discharged too early” and “needed time to stabilise on his medication”.

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They said that on the evening before his death when he had reached out for help, he was encouraged to “go to bed” and watch television.

Mr Etchells-Height was found unresponsive by staff members in the bathroom shortly after 5am, and pronounced dead by paramedics at 6.18am on April 24. Four notes were found in his bedroom.

The inquest continues.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans is able to help – the charity’s free helpline number is 116 123.