Man who took his own life saw no future in farming

Date: Saturday 22nd October 2005

A FARMER suffering from depression killed himself after his dosage of antidepressants was reduced when he was admitted to hospital due to their side effects.

Guy Francis Nicholson, aged 59, was found hanging in an outbuilding at his Kirkby Thore farm on 6th July.

His friend and GP, Dr. Gavin Young, of Temple Sowerby Medical Practice, arrived at the scene shortly before police and found Mr. Nicholson already dead. Mr. Nicholson left behind his wife, Felicity, and sons Francis and Tim.

An inquest at Appleby police station on Tuesday heard that Mr Nicholson, who ran a cattle sales business at his home at Sleastonhow, had been prescribed antidepressants after visiting Dr. Young in April.

DISTRESSED

Dr. Young said: “He said he’d been feeling very depressed and tearful and wasn’t enjoying things. He later told me about concerns about the farm. He wanted to sell it because he didn’t think there was any future in farming, but the family was a bit averse to selling it. He was quite distressed and realised he was not coping and was feeling very anxious.”

Dr. Young said Mr. Nicholson had only ever suffered from depression once before and had been prescribed antidepressants 20 years earlier, to which he had responded well. So, he gave him a drug similar to that which had helped him in the past, but he did not seem to respond, even with increasing dosages. He added: “By mid-June he really wasn’t any better and was having trouble sleeping.”

Dr. Young said he took some blood tests after family members said they felt Mr. Nicholson looked a bit yellow. The tests revealed a low sodium level, possibly caused by the drugs, and he was admitted to hospital. During his stay in hospital, the antidepressants were stopped and his sodium level returned to normal. Due to the side effects, he was discharged from hospital with a much lower dosage of antidepressants than before.

Dr. Young said: “It is difficult for me to know, if he was on the antidepressants as before, whether this would have happened. But he couldn’t have been on antidepressants anyway, because it was sending his blood chemistry awry. His sodium level really was worryingly low.”

Dr. Young added that neither he nor his colleague at the Temple Sowerby Medical Practice had regarded Mr. Nicholson as a suicide risk and he had even discussed with him at one stage whether he was suicidal and he said that he was not.

He said: “I think it was impulsive. I think, for reasons we don’t know, he had had a particularly bad day and Felicity was out and he thought, ‘that’s it, now’s my chance’.”

Coroner for North East Cumbria Ian Morton said: “I don’t have any doubt that he was aware of his actions and intended the consequence of what he did.”

However, he added that he felt it was appropriate to note in his verdict that Mr. Nicholson was ill at the time of his actions and therefore recorded a verdict of suicide, while suffering from a depressive illness.