Winchcombe psychotherapist ended her life at West Wales clifftop:  A Winchcombe psychotherapist who told her partner she was going for a swim at Cheltenham Lido drove 180 miles to the West Wales coast and fell from a clifftop to her death, an inquest has been told. — (GLOS News)

SSRI Ed note: Woman with history of feeling down gets antidepressants from GP, reports feeling better, dies by suicide by jumping from cliff. Partner shocked.

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GLOS News

4 January 2022

Jessica O’Keeffe, 40, was recovered from the sea at Rat Island, near Pembroke, by air sea rescue helicopter and flown to hospital in Swansea, the inquest in Gloucester heard on Dec 16th.

Her shocked partner Oliver Heath was given the news by police, who then rushed him to Swansea – but she had been decared dead before he got there and he was asked to identify her body, the inquest was told.

She had suffered multiple fractures to the ribs, pelvis, cervical spine and face. Cause of death was given by a pathologist as multiple injuries due to a fall.

Alcohol was found in her bloodstream at a level of 188mgs percent – sufficient to have caused drunkenness, the pathologist’s report said.

Assistant Gloucestershire Coroner Roland Wooderson said the tragedy happened on 6th September this year when Ms O’Keeffe, of Postlip Hall, Winchcombe, was reported missing and police went to her home.

Officers then learnt that the vehicle she was believed to be driving had been located in Pembrokeshire close to a coastal footpath ‘that was the kind of area suicidal people were drawn to.’

The Coastguard was alerted and the police were later told that a female matching Ms O’Keeffe’s description had been recovered from the sea and was being airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

“Her partner, Oliver Heath, was told of this,” said the coroner. “He was offered urgent transport to the hospital and he gathered up his belongings and took up that offer.

“While en route to the hospital, the officers were told that she had arrived there and CPR was in progress. The police car arrived at the hospital at 10pm.

“Sadly the supervisor at the hospital said she had been declared dead prior to arrival and had already been taken to the mortuary.”

Mr Wooderson said Mr Heath then viewed and identified her body and the identification was confirmed by the jewellery she was wearing.

A medical report said Ms O’Keeffe had a past history of mental illness and there had been a previous incident when she had considered jumping from a cliff.

The report said that on Sept 6th she left home at 10am to go to Cheltenham Lido. She took her swimming kit with her but she never arrived at the Lido.

Ms O’Keeffe had been suffering from problems including depression, insomnia and low mood and two weeks before her death she had driven to Pembroke, saying it was for a work appointment.

On 6th September police searching the Rat Island area found her flip flops and sunglasses close to the point where she is believed to have entered the water, said the coroner.

The inquest heard that Ms O’Keeffe had been consulting a psychotherapist privately since 2011 and her mental health had improved considerably between 2012 and 2018, at which time she herself became a psychotherapist, began a relationship with her partner and had a child.

In 2020 she contacted her therapist becaue of ‘difficulties with family and work’ in June this year said she would like to start therapy again. She had a 50 minute Zoom consultation with her therapist on 27th July and had agreed to resume regular sessions on 7th September.

The therapist received an email from Ms O’Keeffe reporting that she had been feeling suicidal and had driven to Pembrokeshire with the idea of jumping off a cliff. She stated she was ‘feeliing overwhelmed by all she had to contend with.’

On 1st September, however, she told her therapist she was feeling better and looking forward to their session on 7th Sept.

Ms O’Keefe’s GP, Dr Michael Kilshaw of Winchcombe Medical Centre, said she had been receiving medication for anxiety and low mood but she spoke to them on the phone on 2nd Sept and said she was sleeping better and there had been ‘a bit of an improvement.’

She said she would contact the surgery if her mental health deteriorated. The risk of self harm or suicide was regarded as low at that stage.

In conclusion, the coroner said “She had a history of mental health issues and had previously disclosed that she had considered ending her life by jumping into the sea.”