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Chronic tinnitus and pain behind Porthleven man's suicide
7:00am Thursday 3rd July 2014 in Cornwall
Extreme pain and loss of hearing caused by chronic tinnitus led to a man taking his own life in Porthleven.
Christopher Slowikowski hanged himself in Peverell Terrace, where he was found by partner of ten years Felicity Paton, on June 26, 2011.
Mr Slowikowski, 60, lost his hearing as a child, after he contracted an ear infection.
It had deteriorated further until at the time of his death he had lost 80 per cent of his hearing and suffered from constant noise and pain from the tinnitus.
Despite that he had perfect speech, with Ms Paton saying a person “wouldn’t have known”, although it made communication “very difficult.”
He also had problems with his hand, after previously attempting to take his own life in May 2011 by cutting himself while on the street near Porthleven’s clock tower, but he was seen by a member of the public who called an ambulance.
After this attempt he tried to electrocute himself and was then seen to walk into the sea fully clothed, “wild with anger” that his attempts had failed, according to Ms Paton.
Mr Slowikowski had been under the care of Cornwall’s mental health services, but a lack of communication had led to him being discharged without being informed.
He had been referred by psychiatric liaison nurse Martin Bray, following his first suicide attempt.
Mr Bray said in a statement: “Mr Slowikowski said his intent was to die, triggered by ongoing tinnitus and separation from partner Felicity.”
Previously Ms Paton had told Mr Slowikowski that she no longer wanted to live with him, although they still remained in close contact.
Mr Slowikowksi was seen by the home treatment team and community mental health team, who had differing views.
The eventual agreement was there was no mental health problem, and it was instead a reaction to social stresses and physical health.
However, Mr Slowikowski was not informed of this decision or given advice about different organisations he could turn to.
Colin Quick, who has since become associate director of community services for Cornwall Foundation Trust, said he had carried out a serious incident review, after joining the trust, with two independent members of staff interviewing those involved.
As a result there had been a “number of action points” but he added: “They felt there was nothing from our services’ side that would have affected the outcome.”
However, he acknowledged there had been “some communication issues” between the two teams and the way referrals were dealt with had now “significantly changed.”
Ms Paton said after he attempted to slit his wrist the situation deteriorated further, as he then had problems showering and dressing.
He broke his last analogue hearing aid so could not really hear, and had broken his glasses so could not really see, plus he was in increasing pain.
“We were talking about it getting to a point that was unbearable,” she said.
However, in the days immediately preceding his death Ms Paton said there was a “new level of calmness” to Mr Slowikowski and she believed, in retrospect, this was because he had “worked out his exit from the pain.”
After finding Mr Slowikowski hanged she immediately called 999, but acknowledged: “I just knew he had chosen what he had chosen, and I had to let this be.”
He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital and put on a ventilator, which was subsequently switched off following a short bedside visit by the hospital chaplain.
The cause of death was given as asphyxia due to hanging, with coroner Dr Barrie van den Berg recording a verdict of suicide.
He said: “It is tragic someone feels their physical condition is so bad there’s only one way out.”