Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 16:07 UK

Health service blamed for suicide

David McAdam and wife Barbra, Cathy and husband Paul McAdam arrives at Belfast High Court for the inquest into the death of Steven McAdam
Mr McAdam's family pictured arriving at court for the inquest

The family of a man who drowned when he drove his car into Donaghadee harbour in 2004 has blamed the health service for his suicide, an inquest has heard.

Bangor man Steven McAdam, 43, had been suffering from depression.

Although doctors said he was a danger to himself, he had been discharged from hospital as no psychiatric beds were available in Northern Ireland.

His family was told "take him home and don't leave him alone" but within 48 hours he had taken his own life.

Mr McAdam had been a professional footballer, playing for Portadown and then English league club Burnley.

He was suffering from ME and his disability and increasing reliance on his family made him depressed.

Don't be polite, don't be nice, because it gets you nowhere
Cathy McAdam
He had left his home in Bangor on 21 February 2004 and drove six miles to Donaghadee Harbour.

An eyewitness said his last act before accelerating along the pier was to throw his driving licence out of the car - it was later used by police to identify him.

The inquest heard he had threatened previously to take his life - even leaving his wife a suicide note and driving to a beach with a knife - but he told his family at the time he could not go through with it because of his love for his wife and two children.

Series of questions

Senior coroner John Leckey told the opening of the inquest there was a series of questions that needed answering.

He said he wanted to know if admission to a psychiatric unit had been based on need or availability - whether he could have been sectioned, and if not why not, and whether such a move would have made a bed available.

Mr Leckey asked whether discharge into the care of his family was always the health service's fall-back position.

Mr McAdam's sister-in-law, Cathy McAdam, who was with him when he was refused a bed, said: "Don't be polite, don't be nice, because it gets you nowhere."

Mrs McAdam, who works as a community officer for the Craigavon Health Trust which the family holds responsible, said: "The thought never entered our heads that Steven would not be admitted."

The inquest is expected to continue for several days.

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