Vulnerable twin brothers were found hanging from a tree in Greater Manchester within months of their social security support being axed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Manchester Evening News reports. Neil and Paul Micklewright were found by someone walking their dog in Urmston on 31 July 2018.
Suicide notes were found in the brothers’ pockets, and similar longer notes were found “neatly laid out” on a table in their home. Police coroners officer David Wood told an inquest that when officers searched the brothers’ flat they found financial documents had been arranged in folders, the fridge and freezer had been emptied and defrosted, the fish tank had been emptied and cleaned, their clothes had been packed away in plastic bags, electrical appliances had been switched off, the batteries were removed from the smoke alarms and the beds had been stripped.
The two brothers, who are said to have “relied on each other most of the time”, were reported to have received £40,000 inheritance following the death of their mother which resulted in their benefits being stopped. However, it is also reported that neither brother had more than a few pounds in their bank accounts at the time of their deaths. Their sister Julie Gillaspy told an inquest that the twins were “too proud” to go back to claim social security and were suffering financial hardship in the months leading up to their death.
The inquest into the 52-year-old twins’ deaths heard that they were “gentle, kind and generous”, and had lived with their parents their entire lives.
Gillaspy described the two men as “introverted,” adding: “They were very close, sometimes to the exclusion of others.” She said that she had “struggled to understand” why her brothers took their own lives.
The two suicide notes found in the pockets of the brothers and the two found left n their home were described by a coroner as “essentially identical”, and offered no real clue as to the reasons behind the apparent suicide pact, other than to say that they had “had enough”.
But it was clear that the twins were vulnerable. “I think they struggled socially and I think it all just got on top of them”, Gillaspy said.
“They were very proud people who perhaps weren’t dealt the best hand in life.”
A post-mortem examination gave both brothers’ cause of death as hanging.
Wells said the brothers’ suicide pact “appeared to be a well-planned event”, he added: “All suicides are tragic but the death of two brothers in these circumstances is particularly tragic.”
Researchers and sociologists have identified several causes for rises in the rate of suicide in the United Kingdom; these include recent recessions, unemployment, austerity measures and loneliness. Research undertaken by Samaritans suggested that mental-health issues of middle-aged men and loss of masculine pride and identity are also major factors behind the high rate of suicide.
It is very difficult to establish a single cause of suicide, the reasons are often very complex. One of the thoughts that struck me when I wrote this is how inaccessible our social security system has become, especially for vulnerable people. One of the reasons for this is related to the stigma that has been attached to claiming support, which has happened at least in part because of utterly irresponsible political and media scapegoating narratives, as well as the government’s programme of punitive welfare policies. This made me very angry and also, terribly saddened, because those people who need support the most are being catastrophically let down by a dehumanising system.
There is no narrative from the inquest, as far as I know, that explains why the twin brothers had scarcely any money in their accounts to get by, given the reported circumstances of their inheritance.
The Samaritans and other charities and campaign groups have called for a prioritisation of resources towards services aimed at suicide reduction and prevention.
My own view is that unless we ensure people can meet their basic living needs as a society – such as ensuring that social security is accessible and covers the costs to secure food, fuel and shelter – citizens’ psychosocial needs will always be less of a priority, while they are struggling to survive. Abraham Maslow’s iconic hierarchy of human needs explains how psychological and social wellbeing is very much dependent on our physical wellbeing, and meeting survival needs.
It is difficult to report on suicide. I try my best to do so responsibly and sensitively, while ensuring that the wider public are kept informed. It is important not to brush over the complex realities of suicide and its devastating impact on those left behind, and to also remain mindful of how an article is written, which may have potential consequences for others, including people who are vulnerable, or who identify with the persons who have died.
I know that researching and writing about suicide affects my own state of mind.
If you have been affected by this article, or if are experiencing distress and anxiety and don’t know who to talk to, the Samaritans (116 123) operate 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 using the phone, or being overheard, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sanctuary (0300 003 7029 ) helps people who are struggling to cope – experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks or in crisis. You can call them between 8pm and 6am every night.
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