Depressed OAP took her own life, coroner rules — (NW Mail)

SSRI Ed note: Pensioner gets her antidepressant dosage increased, she dies by suicide the next week. Higher than expected attendant allowance entitlement blamed.

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NW Mail

Last updated 12:09, Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A PENSIONER found drowned near a Lake District beauty spot took her own life while depressed, an inquest has heard.

The body of Ivy Riley, aged 86, of New Road, Kirkby Lonsdale, was found by tourists in the shallow waters of Windermere, at Waterhead, on July 16 this year.

Yesterday, South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith was told Mrs Riley’s depression had been triggered by a letter from the Department for Social Services stating they had accepted her claim for attendant’s allowance.

Her son, David Riley, from Preston Patrick, near Kendal, said his mother felt she was not entitled to the amount offered and was worried by a phrase on the letter that said the money was to pay for both day and night time assistance.

Mr Riley explained: “She was encouraged by a neighbour to apply for attendant’s allowance. But she was shocked at the figure offered and she felt she was not entitled to it, it was too much.

“She also objected to the wording that indicated she may need assistance through the night.

“She lived alone and wanted this changed on the paperwork. I believe this was the trigger for her depression.”

The hearing at County Hall in Kendal heard how Mrs Riley, a widow, subsequently took an overdose of painkillers resulting in a stay at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Community mental health nurse, Simon Kent, described for the inquest how the pensioner had not made the progress she had wished for in her recovery from depression and had begun taking a higher dose of anti-depressants in the week before her death.

He also recounted for the court that Mrs Riley had suffered two previous bouts of the illness during her lifetime, which seemed to occur every 20 years, and had taken an overdose during one of these occasions.

South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith said he would give a narrative verdict on Mrs Riley’s death.

He said Mrs Riley caught a bus to Ambleside under her own steam before taking her life in the lake.

He added he believed her concern at receiving something she did not feel she was entitled to put her in a depression but that she had received full support from health professionals.

Mr Smith said: “It’s obvious she was troubled at being awarded attendant’s allowance.

“I fully accept that she was of a generation which was very uneasy about being entitled to anything and she had been assisted by someone with the form.

“However, she was entitled to this money.

“The trigger was very minor but it may not have looked minor from her point of view.

“Mrs Riley died as a consequence of her own actions while recovering from severe mental illness.

“I believe it was the depression that decided what she did, not Mrs Riley herself.”