Mental health service apologises to family whose son (25) died by suicide

Jamie Costello died by suicide in October 2019.
Mental health service apologises to family whose son (25) died by suicide

A mental health service has unreservedly apologised for the standard of care given to a 25-year-old man who later died by suicide.

In the High Court on Tuesday, the parents of student Jamie Costello and other members of his family settled their actions against the HSE over his death.

At the time of his death on October 1st, 2019, Jamie was a voluntary patient at the Acute Mental Health Unit at University Hospital Galway but was only supposed to leave the unit in the company of his family or occupational therapists.

A letter of apology from the general manager of Mental Health Services Community Healthcare West, Steve Jackson, to Jamie’s parents, Dr Alan Costello and his wife Denise, was read to the court, which said: "I am writing to you on behalf of Galway Roscommon Mental Health Services and do so with regret and sadness.

"On behalf of the service, I wish to unreservedly apologise to you and all of the members of your family for the standard of care delivered to your late son, Mr Jamie Costello which was not to the standard our services would believe was appropriate."

The letter added: "We extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family and to all of those devastated by the loss of your beloved son. We understand that this apology cannot negate the deep effect the loss of your son has had on your lives."

Settlement

The Costello family’s counsel, Jonathan Kilfeather SC told the court three nervous shock actions taken by family members and one over his death had been settled. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Jamie’s father, Dr Costello of Ballinduff, Cornadulla, Co Galway had sued the HSE over the death of his son on October 1st, 2019.

Jamie, it was claimed, had suffered from complex mental health problems including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. He was admitted to the acute mental health unit in Galway twice in 2019.

Although he was a voluntary patient, his movements were restricted. He only had leave to be out of the unit when he was with his family or with occupational therapists.

It was claimed he was treated with a variety of medications and psychological interventions but he remained symptomatic and continued intermittently to express thoughts of hopelessness and suicidal ideation. At the time of his death he was due to be assessed at a specialist unit in London.

Unsupervised leave

On September 30th, 2019, Jamie left the unit on his own for an hour, which it was claimed was contrary to the instructions of his consultant psychiatrist.

The next day Jamie again left the unit and it was claimed there was no satisfactory explanation as to how he was able to leave the unit on consecutive days without the agreement of his clinician.

It was claimed the care provided to Jamie on September 30th and October 1st, 2019 was of an unacceptable standard. It was further claimed that had Jamie been afforded adequate care on those days he would not have taken his own life and would have gone to a London hospital as planned.

It was also claimed Jamie had been granted unsupervised leave when it was known he was a suicide risk.

The court was told the lives of the Costello family have been torn apart by the tragic and untimely death of Jamie.

Noting the settlements, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the Costello family.

Outside the court, the Costello family solicitor Damien Tansey said Jamie had left the facility on three separate occasions within two weeks and the clinician in charge of his case had directed that he be allowed out only in the care of his parents or an occupational therapist.

“Unfortunately the unspeakable tragedy that you heard in court happened. The family still have to face the inquest. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this,” he added.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support. In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112

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