Belfast Telegraph

Troubled Ballyclare dad Ian Hamilton went to three hospitals in five days before taking his own life

By Luke Barnes

A Co Antrim man took his own life after attending three different hospitals in five days.

Father-of-two Ian Hamilton (38), from Ballyclare, died on March 12, 2013.

His father, Charles Hamilton, told the inquest that his son had a history of mental illness and addiction problems and was first diagnosed with depression in 1998.

Since 2001 he had been receiving treatment on and off for his mental health problems.

Mr Hamilton said: "At times he was in very good moods and other times he wasn't - his mood was wildly unpredictable.

"He said, 'Mum there's something wrong with me and I don't know what it is, but something is not right with me.'"

Despite suffering these issues, Mr Hamilton told how his son was determined to "stand on his own two feet and provide for his children".

He also recalled his son's talent for music and for repairing computers.

Ian attended the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on March 8, before returning home two days later.

He had suicidal thoughts and twice harmed himself in the hospital.

On March 11 his friend, Kevin Mullan, accompanied him late at night to Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn, once again due to suicidal thoughts. Mr Mullan said: "He was obviously in a very dark place. He kept saying, 'Do you want me to become another statistic?'"

Lagan Valley Hospital was closed at the time, and Ian was instead referred to Dr Hugh Gallagher, the out of hours doctor, who in turn referred him to Ulster Hospital early on March 12.

Dr Gallagher told the court that Mr Hamilton became evasive and argumentative during their 45-minute consultation, eventually walking out - an experience he said happened to him fewer than five times throughout his entire career.

Dr Gallagher explained to Mr Hamilton he would have to go through the mental health team, which would assess the best course of action.

He added the onus was on him to help himself. He stressed: "His thing was manipulating me to get what he wanted now, rather then go through the protocol that I have to go through.

"There's no way that I can get someone to leave our surgery out of hours and go directly to a psychiatric facility."

Dr Gallagher added that Mr Hamilton did not appear to possess an acute and immediate risk to himself or others or obvious signs of psychosis, which would be grounds for sectioning under the Mental Health Act.

Other medical professionals defended their handling of the tragic case and noted Mr Hamilton had previously failed to act when feeling suicidal.

Dr Peter Sloan, from the Royal Victoria Hospital, stressed that his team had to deal with thousands of similar cases each year.

He added that the Belfast Trust had a policy of treating mental health patients within their own communities and said it was "very unusual" to manage suicidal crises in hospitals.

Dr Seena Fazel, a professor of forensic psychiatry at Oxford University, also told the hearing that mental health admissions needed to be restricted to particularly high-risk cases.

The inquest continues today.

Belfast Telegraph


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