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'He didn't think there was anything they could do': Former law student stopped seeking help for depression a year before suicide

Jess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. An inquest into Mr Fairweather's death has taken place in Norwich. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHER

Jess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. An inquest into Mr Fairweather's death has taken place in Norwich. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHER

Archant

A “charismatic” student with a history of mental health problems took his own life just three weeks into a university course.

At the funeral service for Jess Fairweather, which took place at Bluebell Wood in Hainford on what would have been his 21st birthday. Picture: STUART ANDERSONAt the funeral service for Jess Fairweather, which took place at Bluebell Wood in Hainford on what would have been his 21st birthday. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Jess Fairweather had been suffering from depression since 2014, but a bad experience at his home surgery in North Walsham – where he wasn’t seen after arriving eight minutes late for his appointment – caused him to stop seeking treatment.

His family told his inquest in Norwich on Friday that after starting his law degree at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in September 2018 he struggled to adjust to student life, often feeling lonely in his halls of residence.

He was found hanging in his flat in Kett House by a cleaner on October 11, less than three weeks before his 21st birthday.

In a statement his mother Beverley Bishop said her son was a “charismatic, lively, intelligent and thoughtful boy”.

At the funeral service for Jess Fairweather, which took place at Bluebell Wood in Hainford on what would have been his 21st birthday. Picture: STUART ANDERSONAt the funeral service for Jess Fairweather, which took place at Bluebell Wood in Hainford on what would have been his 21st birthday. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Mr Fairweather was first diagnosed with depression in January 2014 and had two follow-up appointments with CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services), but Mrs Bishop said he found them unhelpful. “He said ‘What would a middle-aged man in a suit know about me?’.”

On July 19, 2017, suffering from low mood, he attended an appointment with Dr Stuart Davidson at Birchwood Surgery in North Walsham, after which he was put on a low dose of antidepressants.

But he expressed concerns to his mother that the medication he had been prescribed was causing him to have “suicidal thoughts”.

He had a third follow-up appointment booked with Dr Davidson on October 6, 2017, but arrived eight minutes late and left without being seen.

Jess Fairweather was a student at the University of East Anglia. Picture: ArchantJess Fairweather was a student at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Archant

Mrs Bishop, from Cromer, said he was “incredibly distressed” about the incident. “After that event he refused to go back. He didn’t think there was anything they could do.”

Dr Davidson told the inquest the surgery has since changed its policies to avoid patients missing appointments if they arrive late.

Mr Fairweather did not seek any help for his mental health problems after that missed appointment.

The inquest heard Mr Fairweather had left his job as an estate agent to do a year-long college course which would get him into UEA to study law - something he was “passionate” about according to friend Ryan Head.

The court heard he was an active student, with a busy social life and membership of groups including the Law Society.

Andreas Stephan, head of law at UEA, said in a statement that Mr Fairweather’s death had “affected the staff deeply”.

“He was the best prepared for his teaching sessions and the best contributor to the sessions,” he said.

Statements from flatmates Natalie Simm and Ayoub Teledjati said he was a “charismatic guy” who “got everyone else in a good mood”.

But his mother said he often felt lonely in halls and struggled with a lack of mobile phone signal in his room, hampering his communications with his family.

“He did worry that everybody seemed to be socialising and getting on. He felt a bit lonely despite the fact that he socialised lots,” said Mrs Bishop.

She told the inquest that she had met her son for lunch a week before his death and that he had seemed much happier.

“I felt proud, it was lovely to be there with him in the canteen,” she said. “He seemed quite bright and chirpy.”

Johanna Thompson, assistant coroner for Norfolk, reported a conclusion of suicide. She said: “It is clear that Jess took his own life for reasons we will never know.”

• The Samaritans can be called for free, at any time on 116 123 or by emailing: jo@samaritans.org.

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