Poet took own life

8:39am Friday 30th July 2004

By Jennie Dennett

WELL-LOVED Ulverston writer and community figure Dickon Abbott took his own life but it was not a case of suicide, an inquest has concluded.

South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith decided that 42-year-old Mr Abbott hanged himself on February 23 as a result of severe, clinical depression. But he stressed that the poet and former councillor did not necessarily know what he was doing.

He said: "Legally speaking suicide has two elements - the action of taking your own life, which he did, but also the firm, clear mental intent to end your own life knowing what you are doing and going through with it regardless.

"It's the second part that is missing in my view. He was suffering from a severe mental illness, clinical depression. It can and did in Mr Abbott's case, take over his rational mental thought processes. It isn't right to say he deliberately, with full understanding and knowledge of what he was doing, took his own life."

The Barrow Town Hall hearing heard from Mr Abbott's wife of 12 years, Hazel Dole, that he had suffered a serious bout of depression in 1995 but had pulled through.

But briefly in 2002, and again in June 2003, he had lapsed into depression again and had been seeing a therapist and clinical psychologist for treatment and medication.

Ms Dole said her husband had entertained suicidal thoughts, but his death had still come out of the blue.

"He said he had thought of harming himself but he was a step back from those, he could see they were thoughts. I didn't expect him to act on them."

Similarly, his therapist, clinical psychologist Liz Bolt, told the inquest Mr Abbott had talked to her of killing or harming himself yet those thoughts were a safety valve.

"Having those ideas, acting out the first steps was a way for him to get some release from how he was feeling," she said. "Having taken those first steps however, he felt better. Those plans weren't actually things he was going to do."

In a phone conversation 12 days before he died, he talked again of taking his life but went on to enthuse about future plans.

On hearing of his death, Dr Bolt said she was "totally stunned" and had not anticipated it at all.

Dr Anthony Page, Furness General Hospital's consultant pathologist, told the inquest that his patient was in the course of switching medication from Efexor to Seroxat a drug which had helped him shake off depression in 1995.

To make the transition, he had gradually stopped taking Efexor and had been taking Seroxat for 11 days when he died.

Dr Page confirmed that the switch in drugs could cause increased anxiety, and that there had been press reports about Seroxat increasing suicidal tendencies. However, he pointed out that the drug had successfully treated Mr Abbott in the past.

Summing up, Mr Smith said he had dealt with two other suicides which happened when the person was changing medication and pressed for more research.

Mr Abbott leaves his wife Hazel and daughter Eloise. A collection at his packed funeral raised £1,300 for The Woodland Trust.

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