A businessman struggling with mental illness left an inpatient facility for lunch with his family before taking his own life, an inquest heard.
Ben Heron, 39, left The Orchard mental health unit in Lancaster on April 26 2017 to go out for lunch with his family at The Stork pub in Glasson Dock.
The former Lancaster University student had been an “informal inpatient” at the facility after suffering from a breakdown in his mental health in the weeks leading up to his death.
After apologising to his partner and his father, he left the pub in Corricks Lane and walked into the river at around 2pm.
A large-scale search involving coastguard and police helicopters, together with search teams on foot, was immediately launched.
But Ben’s body was not discovered until almost a month later, on May 25.
Pathologist Dr Mark Sissens recorded death due to drowning.
The inquest at Lancaster Castle heard that the businessman, who ran a web design company and was also a keen and cyclist and runner, had a history of mental health issues dating back around 10 years.
Following his partner’s concerns about his state of mind, he visited his GP Dr Karen Oliver on April 6 who referred him to Lancashire Care NHS Trust’s crisis team.
He was assessed and given a future appointment, but on April 14 he ended up in intensive care after an attempt on his own life.
He was then transferred to Ribble Ward at the Adult Mental Health Inpatient Ward in Blackburn on April 15.
Following observations and assessments and a general improvement in his outlook he was deemed “no risk at that time”, and according to consultant psychiatrist Dr Amir Nazir “appeared brighter” and was transferred again to The Harbour in Blackpool on April 19.
But he was deemed well enough to be transferred closer to home in Lancaster, and was admitted to The Orchard mental health unit. The inquest heard that Ben hadn’t been taking medication and that he felt he had failed with his business.
Dr Nallapuneni, consultant psychiatrist at The Orchard, said: “He couldn’t understand how we could help him and he was reluctant to take any medication. In my view he was in need of long term psychiatric services.
There was a conflict in Ben’s mind between his role as a businessman and the fact that he had to stay on the ward and not think about his business. He was struggling.”
Julia Cam, registered mental health nurse at The Orchard, described the last time she saw him on April 26.
She said: “Lyndsey and Ben’s dad arrived to take Ben out for lunch. He said he felt safe to go out. He’d been out earlier in the morning for a run. He seemed happy to be going out and it’s part of the therapy and is constantly assessed.”
Coroner Richard Taylor recorded a verdict of suicide, noting that Ben had taken his own life after apologising to his family.