Haydon Croucher, who is the brother of missing MK woman Leah Croucher, was 24 when he took his own life in November 2019.
He had suffered mental health issues for six years but his condition worsened after the anguish of his sister vanishing without trace in February 2019.
The caring and much-loved young man was found hanging by his mum Tracey Furness and older sister Jade Croucher in his Newton Leys flat. Despite their desperate attempts to resuscitate him, Haydon died two days later, surrounded by his family.
This week, during Mental Health Awareness week, Tracey has bravely spoken out about how she feels let down by local mental health services – in particular their funding problems nationally - after her son approached them for help. Her aim is to save other lives and to prevent other families going through the agony of losing a loved one.
She said: "Haydon was suffering with significant ill mental health. He knew he needed help and he was begging the mental health services to help him. He said to them: ‘I cannot keep myself safe’. Yet due to a series of failures, they let him down and I lost my son.
"Our pain and my distress is not something I would ever wish on another family. If the loss of my son’s life can save just one other person … if his voice can be heard.. then he did not die in vain.”
After an inquest into Haydon’s death uncovered “inadequacies” in the system, Tracey launched a clinical negligence case against the Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL), which runs all mental health services in MK. The claim has now been concluded and CNWL has admitted the failures.
Tracey is hoping this will result in vital improvements being made.
She said the first major failure was when Haydon reached crisis point in October 2019 and a ‘Gatekeeping assessment’ was held to determine how CNWL could help him.
Suffering with severe clinical depression and anxiety, on top of a complex history of ill mental health, the young man had made two previous attempts at taking his life. He told the assessors he felt hopeless” and “would be better off dead.” Records show how he was fixated on hanging himself.
"I was with him at the assessment,” said Tracey. “He was willing to be admitted but we were told no beds were available for him in a secure psychiatric ward so he would have to stay at home. I said this was not safe for Haydon.
"But they didn’t change their minds. I had no option but to take back to my own home for his safety.”
Despite being assessed as high risk of suicide, Haydon was put on a home care plan with the Acute Home Treatment Team (AHTT), where a mental health worker would visit him once a day.
This lasted for three and a half weeks until, on November 12, CNWL suddenly decided he was well enough to be discharged from the service.
"I didn’t know,” said Tracey. “There was no liaison to tell us he had been discharged.”
On the evening of November 14, two days after his discharge, Tracey and her daughter made a panic-stricken dash to Haydon’s flat after he failed to answer his phone. Tragically they were too late.
"The only comfort I can take from trying to breathe life into my son that evening was that it gave us time to say goodbye,” sobbed Tracey.
Since the tragedy, Tracey has discovered that the number of mental health beds has been cut from 40,000 nationally in 2016 to just 17,000 in 2020/21.
“That’s a huge reduction – yet the number of people with mental health problems is massively increasing. Had Haydon been given a bed in a secure ward then I believe he would still be alive today,” she said.
She also wants to raise awareness of the inadequacies of the care pathways when individuals are facing emergency mental health crisis, and the fact that families have a voice in the care of their loved one.
She is hoping the additional £2.3bn a year that the government has pledged to invest in mental health care from next year will result in a positive change to how patients are dealt with, particularly those trying to access emergency mental health care.
Tracey would also like to see improvements in the rights of families when it comes to representation at Inquests. She spent months preparing for Haydon’s inquest on her own, until she was eventually able to secure legal advice and representation from a solicitor.
Oakwood Solicitors helped her launch the negligence claim against CNWL. Their lawyer Joseph Hilton said:. “The objective of bereaved families in bringing their case is typically to bring about changes that will prevent future deaths, or to stop others going through what they have faced. We’re proud to be supporting Tracey in highlighting the need for change in how mental health care services are delivered.”
.A spokesman for CNWL told the Citizen: “Whilst there can be no doubt that everyone involved in the late Mr Croucher’s care thought that they were doing their best for him at the time, it is clear, with the benefit of hindsight that mistakes were made and for that the Trust is deeply sorry.”