BY CALUM FRASER
The widower of a former dancer who killed herself after being prescribed antidepressants is on a mission to prevent pills being a doctor’s first port of call.
Colette Hughes, of Crystal Palace, was prescribed three different antidepressant drugs over a six-month period in a process her husband John describes as “swallowing a spider to catch a fly”.
Dance instructor and actress Colette, who had performed on the main stage at Glastonbury, was struggling to sleep as she went through her menopause, so she went to a South London and Maudsley Trust (SLaM) surgery for help.
Mr Hughes believes the pills and treatment she received had a negative impact on her mental health and led to her having suicidal thoughts.
The mother-of-one jumped from the top of the multi-story car park at Centrale Shopping Centre in Croydon at around 4.30pm on July 7, 2014.
Mr Hughes, who has received a six-figure settlement from SLaM, said: “This whole culture we have of dishing out pills is all wrong. It should be the last solution, not the first.
“When she first presented in front of a doctor she had been struggling for a year with sleep.
“She said she felt like a walking zombie during the day and it was causing her anxiety.” There was a nine-month waiting list for the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) she asked for.
The Upper Norwood Group Practice prescribed several antidepressants, eventually giving her Sertraline.
Mr Hughes, who lives with his 12-year-old daughter, Ruby, said: “Very soon after she was put on Sertraline she said to me, “John I keep getting spontaneous images coming into my mind of jumping off the building next door, I am not choosing to think them, they keep coming into my mind.”
The couple were told to continue with the medication as it would get better. She went missing in June and a police hunt found her in a car contemplating suicide.
Mr Hughes, who worked as an actor, said: “She then started to get better and settle down. I went to work for the first time in a year-and-a-half with a skip in my step. “I thought ‘I’ve got my wife back’. We were talking about going on holiday and making plans for the summer the weekend before she died.
“Then on the Monday I was at a shoot and just before the director called action, I got a call saying Collette hadn’t picked up Ruby. “I got the police round to the house and thought it would be another manhunt.
Then one of the police officers called the other one upstairs. “A few minutes later the two of them walked downstairs like they were doing the death march. “I had been holding up the world on my shoulders for a year-and-a-half. Suddenly that burden got 100 times heavier.”
Mr Hughes plans to put this experience to use by offering NHS trusts a half-day workshop for all patient-facing staff on the importance of care and compassion as a tribute to his late wife. ~
Director of Nursing Beverley Murphy said: “On behalf of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Mr Hughes and his family in respect of the very sad death of his wife Mrs Colette Hughes.
“Following Mrs Hughes’ death a full internal investigation was conducted and an inquest was concluded in May 2015.
“We would want to reassure Mrs Hughes’ family and others that our trust continues to work very hard to improve the quality of our services for patients and ensure lessons are learned.”