SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states thatantidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the antidepressant in the human body.
Brighton mum who set herself on fire was depressed after redundancy, inquest hears
2:33pm Thursday 19th November 2009
A Brighton mother-of-two committed suicide by dousing herself in barbecue lighter fluid and setting it alight after battling with a chronic alcohol problem and depression since being made redundant, an inquest heard today.
Birgit Bartlett's body was found by her daughter in the garden of her home in Hollingbury Crescent on August 8.
An inquest at Brighton County Court heard the 51-year-old died of suffocation after inhaling the flames which enveloped her body.
Pathologist Mark Taylor, who carried out a post-mortem examination, said she had an acute thermal injury to her windpipe and believed she would have died "rapidly".
Mr Taylor said she had low levels of alcohol in her blood, equal to having consumed around four units, but added that he found excess fat around her liver, "in keeping with her history of chronic alcohol abuse," although this did not contribute to her death.
Mrs Bartlett's husband, Michael, said his wife began drinking heavily when she was made redundant in 2007 and he and his adult son and daughter would often find empty bottles of wine hidden around the house.
In 2008 she stopped drinking when she became employed as an admin assistant, but took it up again when she lost the job in February of this year.
This time her alcohol abuse was worse, and she took to drinking a bottle of spirits a day. Mr Bartlett said the family confiscated her credit cards and cheque book in a bid to stop her.
By this time she was also taking Prozac and diazepam and had been given several referrals for alcohol treatment programmes.
During a visit to her GP in March she denied thoughts of suicide but admitted she had been feeling low, before she was admitted to hospital in May after setting fire to her duvet cover while in bed.
She suffered third degree burns to her thigh and lower back and was referred to the local community mental health team.
The inquest heard that German-born Mrs Bartlett had no previous psychiatric problems but her sister had committed suicide six years ago.
Psychiatrist Graham Walton said he saw Mrs Bartlett three times in July but said he felt "she didn't want to engage" with him.
He said he did not think she seemed suicidal but "she did admit there was endless drinking".
Mr Bartlett said his wife underwent a detoxification programme to try to stop her from drinking and said she felt "ashamed" of her condition.
"She was petrified that somebody she knew would see her going in or out," he added.
In the days leading up to her death she told him, "I'll never find another job" and "I'm no good", the inquest heard.
On the day she died Mr Bartlett said he noticed she was missing so thought she might have gone for a walk and he searched her local haunts. He arrived back at the house at around 1.30pm to find police, fire engines and ambulances outside.
Detective Sergeant Helen Paine of Sussex Police told the inquest that officers were satisfied that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mrs Bartlett's death.
Summing up, Dr Karen Henderson, assistant deputy coroner for Brighton and Hove, said the inquest had found "little evidence that she seriously wished to stop drinking".
She added: "She was also offered a lot of help from social services, her GP, and from substance misuse services. It is quite clear she did not wish to engage with these services.
"The manner of her death is truly terrible but we have heard evidence that her death would have been mercifully brief and mercifully painless."
Recording a verdict of suicide, she added: "I know that the family did everything they possibly could to help Birgit," and offered them her condolences.
Mr Bartlett declined to comment on the hearing.