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Sister’s campaigning secures services for ‘suicide’ families

By Kieran Hughes

The sister of a North Belfast man who took his own life one year ago last Sunday (January 29) says her campaign to get better treatment for other families hasn’t been in vain.

Julie Magee’s 29-year-old brother Jonathan (Jonny) Magee from Graymount Drive, who had a history of mental health problems, took his own life in Lisburn after leaving both the Mater and the City Hospitals after seeking help.

Around the time of his death Jonny, who had suffered from both alcohol and drug addictions, had been desperately seeking medical attention and had attended no fewer than four different health facilities. Despite this he was able to walk out of two hospitals before eventually taking his own life.

In June last year Julie was strongly critical of the way her case was handled by the Belfast Trust’s Serious Adverse Incident Review team. Before the review Julie was challenged by a health official about bringing a note taker into the review meeting.

Julie submitted a complaint about the way her family were treated and in December the Trust wrote to her saying all families attending a Serious Adverse Incident Review could bring a note taker with them.

The letter also told Julie that the Trust were “determined to learn from your recent experience to ensure that in future the process supports families and does not lead to further upset”.

She says that, at least, is a small success for her and other families who may find themselves in the same situation.

“Families should be able to take notes, we went in there with our eyes closed. We didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said.

Since June the Trust has also put in place a Family Liaison Officer to help families involved in Serious Adverse Incident Reviews. Julie says families need to be aware that that help is available.

“Other families should be aware that there is a liaison officer, we didn’t have one and we would have liked someone. I helped get that in place but not many people know about it. There is help there, you are not alone and the Trust is going to work with people now and it is great that there are things like this in place.”

She said the success of her campaigning, with the help of rights group the PPR project and suicide awareness group PIPS Programmes, will benefit other families.

“Down the line when other families are in a similar situation – that’s when I will see the success. I don’t want it to happen to another family,” she said.

However Julie added that the ceaseless fight to get to the bottom of the issues surrounding her brother’s death,  has meant she hasn’t been able to grieve properly.

“This keeps my mind off what happened to Jonny but it comes back very easily,” she said.

“There are so many reminders of him, I will never get over it. But we are making progress with the Trust. You can’t put it behind you, it will never go behind you, you just have to accept it and hope that procedures can be put in place for the future.”


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