Damien Lawler, who had a generous nature and a heart of gold. (Image: Karen Lawler)
Last year on 19 July, Karen Lawler found her son Damien, aged 34, dead at his flat in Newtown Court, Hull.
Damien killed himself after struggling to find work and his social security support – Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was due to be stopped. Known as ‘Damo’ to his family, he was found dead in his flat, east Hull, flat with a suicide note in his hand.
In the note, he wrote that he felt like a “hindrance” and “couldn’t carry on anymore” after having no success for the numerous job applications he had made. He also wrote that his ESA was due to be cancelled, and he was so terrified about being put on Jobseeker’s Allowance he was experiencing “stupid” panic attacks.
He wrote: “I’m sorry for all the pain and heartache I’m leaving behind. I love you with all my heart but I can’t carry on anymore.”
Damien’s mother, Karen Lawler, spoke of her heartache and described her son as someone “with a heart of gold”. She said: “He never had much money but he would always give his last penny or his last cigarette to a homeless person on the street. He always had a care for the homeless.”
“He had a wicked sense of humour and a heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody.”
Lawler, who found her son after letting herself into his home on July 19, 2018, said her son had been suffering depression for a number of years, and said more needed to be done to support people with mental health issues. She said: “Damo was just so tired and exhausted with it all.
“There was not enough support for him.
“There’s just nothing there. He’s not the only one. The recent cases with males in Hull is going sky high because they can’t cope anymore.”
An inquest on Tuesday heard Ms Lawler took her son to his GP in November 2013 after he deliberately self-harmed, using a Stanley knife to cut off his toe nails. He was prescribed with anti-depressants but his mental health difficulties took a turn for the worse in 2017.
During a visit to his GP in January 2018, Damien revealed he had thoughts of self-harm and suicide. He was advised to return to the surgery for further consultation, but he did not follow through with the appointments.
Many people who are ill and struggling find it very difficult to keep appointments, especially when they face difficulties accessing acute services for help. Many need immediate help to follow from the first appointment, because by that time, they are in crisis. But all too often, people in terrible distress, with suicide ideation, are being told they must attend yet another appointment.
This system sets up a bureaucratic wall, placing an all too often insurmountable barrier between citizens in the greatest need – those least ability to cope with navigating the wall – and the services and support they need to access.
We must also question the decision to end Damien’s ESA award, when he was so clearly ill and unfit for work. We must challenge a system that leaves people feeling as if they are some kind of ‘burden’ simply because they are ill.
“There needs to be something there if they do not turn up for any appointments,” said Ms Lawler. “They cannot just discharge someone. They need to try and find out why they have not come to the appointment. Maybe contacting a next of kin or something.
She added: “I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t suppose there is an easy answer but something needs to be changed. Something has got to change in Hull, it really has.”
I agree. Something has to change. The social security and health care systems no longer function to meet fundamental human needs. Instead they have been redesigned to provide as little support as possible at the lowest costs, while a host of private companies make profits at citizens’ expense.
The Coroner, James Hargan, returned a verdict of suicide.
If you need help
Please, please talk to someone.
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit http://www.samaritans.org find your nearest branch.
CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information depressionalliance.org
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org
You can also contact me on this site any time, too. I’m a good and experienced listener. I can also signpost people to organisations that can help.
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