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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 00:42 GMT
'He could have had another chance'
Grace Olley
Grace Olley, whose son Kevin died five years ago
Research shows that suicides amongst schizophrenics can be reduced be wider use of a drug called clozapine.

Grace Olley's son Kevin committed suicide in 1998, aged 26.

She told BBC News Online she believes clozapine could have helped her son.


Grace Olley, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, knew there was something wrong with her son Kevin, but she put it down to delayed "teenage troubles".

"He had been so good as a young teenager. We'd had no problems.

"He'd been a delight, and we'd been able to take him anywhere.

It could have given him a further chance

"As a young boy, he was a keen music fan, a big fan of heavy metal, Status Quo and Queen. He had a fantastic record collection."

But signs of problems began to emerge in Kevin's late teens.

"When he was about 18 or 19, we saw the first signs.

"He was working, and he was coming home saying people were talking about him and looking at him."

He lost that, and a subsequent job, and was diagnosed as having a severe form of schizophrenia in 1995.

"The doctors put him on one of the older antipsychotics, and it did seem to work."

Car-park 'accident'

After living in residential accommodation for two months Kevin, then 23, felt so well he moved out.

Because he felt better, and because the drugs were expensive, he stopped taking them.

His mother said: "Then he ended up back in hospital.

"I can honestly say that from then, he didn't get any better - he got worse."

She predicted he would eventually be successful in taking his own life

After he was discharged, Kevin was living in a flat on his own.

During this time, he was taken to hospital after injuring himself at a local multi-story car-park.

He injured his jaw in the accident, and told different stories to A&E staff, saying he had been bird watching or taking photographs, despite having neither binoculars or a camera with him.

Upset

A couple of months later he called his mother, worried about messages in the Readers Digest.

"It was falling open on the same page. At the top of the page, it said 'leap off the wall'.

"He saw a doctor at the Maudsley Hospital in London in 1997. She was convinced he had become immune to his medicine.

"She predicted he would eventually be successful in taking his own life, and that he should be on clozapine."

But Kevin's own psychiatrist decided he should instead have the dose of his existing medication increased.

On the day of his death, 14 April 1998, Kevin was in hospital. As his parents left, they told a nurse he seemed very upset and asked her to keep an eye on him.

But shortly after, hospital staff came to the house.

"Kevin had left the mental health unit and run down to the general hospital.

"He went up to the 10th floor and broke one of the windows with a chair.

"They said he had jumped out, and was dead."

Mrs Olley said clozapine might have helped him: "I can't be 100% sure, but it could have given him a further chance."

Since Kevin's death, Grace, her husband and their other two children have struggled to cope.

But she said they are continuing to campaign for better treatment and support for those affected by schizophrenia.


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See also:

06 Jun 02 | Health
09 Dec 01 | Health
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