A tortured apprentice engineer who killed himself in front of a train was tormented by the prospect of a lifelong battle with his illness.
Nicholas Afzal, 20, from Bramhall, had a ‘bright future’ ahead of him. But he had been diagnosed with severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder as a young teen, a coroner’s inquest was told, and ‘didn’t want to take medication for the rest of his life’.
Over the years Nicholas had battled his condition with various methods including cognitive behavioural therapy, visits to a psychiatrist, mindfulness techniques and medication.
But after ‘losing hope’ he died of multiple injuries at Bramhall train station on July 25 last year.
He had been keen to come off medication and wanted to manage his condition using solely therapy but father Mohamed Afzal told South Manchester Coroner’s Court that by June 2017 his son was ‘losing hope’ and the family decided more help was needed.
As a result, Nicholas had two appointments at the private Priory clinic, in Altrincham, where he was given three types of medication to take – sertraline, citalopram and pregabilin.
The court heard all were prescribed at initially low doses but seen as vital in order to get Nicholas to a stage where measures such as cognitive behavioural therapy would work. It then took his family three weeks to persuade him to start taking this medication, which he eventually did two days before his death.
Mr Afzal told the inquest: “There was a sense of despair, the word he used was torment. I think he just wanted some peace.
“He had a low mood and was quieter that weekend. He was in constant fear of a relapse, that seemed to be the drive.
“He didn’t want to take medication for the rest of his life. I think it was because he had been taking it from about 13 or 14. After six years I think he had lost hope that there would be a life without medication.
“There was always a possibility (of suicide) but as a parent it is a little difficult to accept that could happen. We would have hoped he would come to us.”
It was said that Nicholas had previously talked about suicidal thoughts but not of any plans to take action.
Following a breakdown in October 2016 he had gone to Wilmslow train station, where he spent 30 minutes sat on the platform before leaving again. He later told a therapist of the incident but said he ‘didn’t want to do it again’.
Doctor Jaya Gowrisunkur, from the Priory, said: “The challenge with Nicholas was getting him to take any medication, he was very clear he did not like it.
“For therapy to work you have to initially address and reduce the symptoms through medication.”
In recording a conclusion of suicide, South Manchester Senior Coroner Alison Mutch said: “Nicholas Afzal was a young man blessed with a supportive and loving family. They tried to support him with the anxiety that afflicted him so much through his life.
“He had a bright future ahead of him, he was well-regarded by his employers who were sympathetic and supportive to him. Nicholas felt it was the time for him and did not wish to go on anymore.”
Helplines and websites
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information. http://www.depressionalliance.org/
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying. http://studentsagainstdepression.org/
The Sanctuary (0300 003 7029 ) helps people who are struggling to cope – experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks or in crisis. You can call them between 8pm and 6am every night.
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