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Dad Gregory Ferris who drowned in Larne harbour 'feared losing his job with tobacco company JTI Gallaher'

By Angela Rainey

Published 12/08/2016

A father of five who was found drowned at Larne harbour just a few weeks before Christmas had been worried about the loss of his job, an inquest has heard.

Gregory Ferris was described by his daughter Emer (23) as a "brilliant and model father and a good, hard-working man."

He had been suffering from depression when his body was discovered on December 4, 2014 at the Lough Shore in Larne. Mr Ferris had taken his own life.

The Ballymena man had suffered with depression for years but remained "a dedicated family man" who loved being with his wife Brenda and his children Emer (23), Anthony (21) Ciaran (20), Matthew (17) and Patrick (13).

An inquest into his death heard yesterday that Mr Ferris had become more stressed in the week leading up to his death.

His wife said that he had loved his job at JTI Gallaher's in Ballymena, where he had worked for 17 years.

However, he had become worried about his job security following announcements of redundancies.

Mrs Ferris said her husband was further stressed by the implementation of new machinery at the factory, which he was finding difficult to operate.

He approached his GP and mental health services as he was becoming "desperate".

An immediate assessment was undertaken at Holywell Hospital, Antrim. He was deemed to be "medium risk" as he had not disclosed having any suicidal thoughts. A care plan was put in place and Mr Ferris was visited at his home for a number of days prior to his death by a community mental health worker.

However, nobody visited on the day of his death, which had upset him, the inquest heard.

An appointment with a psychiatrist had been made for the following day.

On the day he died, Mr Ferris told his wife that he was going to find a mechanic to repair their car, as it had failed its MOT.

He sent her a text just after 9.30am saying he was waiting in a queue.

When he failed to answer his phone to his wife an hour later, she immediately raised the alarm with his mental health workers and police.

Mr Ferris' body was discovered in the water at Larne harbour.

During the inquest, the family raised concerns about the provision of mental health services across Northern Ireland.

Mrs Ferris said: "We felt like we had just been left on our own." However, coroner Joe McChrisken said he disagreed that they had been left alone.

He said he believed the medical staff involved in Mr Ferris' care had "acted very quickly" and could not have foreseen the tragic outcome.

Regional mental health services have since been revised.

Coroner McChrisken said: "There was some very good practise here and I do not think it is fair to say you had been left alone.

"It is my view that it was reasonably quick that an appointment was made from the Wednesday to two days later where he would attend the appointment with the psychiatrist ... and I am satisfied that the lack of suicide ideation did not lift Gregory into the higher risk category and that he deliberately took his own life when his mind was disturbed."

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: "The Regional Care Pathway for Mental Health was developed and introduced in 2014 in Northern Ireland for people who require mental health care and support.

"It's aimed at enhancing the quality and consistency of mental health support service across Northern Ireland.

"The pathway recognises that all treatment and care needs to be highly personalised and recovery-orientated."

If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans on 084 5790 9090, or Lifeline (080 8808 8000)

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