Wigan man died after years of alcohol misuse, inquest hears

A Wigan man who died after years of alcohol misuse was likely suffering from an diagnosed mental health disorder at the time of his death, a coroner has said.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 9:50 am
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 9:52 am

Jason Callaghan was 42 when he died of acute alcohol toxicity in April 2020. An inquest heard that he had “a persistent and enduring relationship” with alcohol, and had sought treatment on a number of occasions.

He was found unresponsive at his long-term partner Susan Halliwell’s home on the morning of April 29. The inquest heard that he had not drank for several days before his death, in his latest attempt to go sober, before consuming as much as a litre of vodka on the day before he suffered a seizure in the night.

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Bolton Coroners Court

At Bolton Coroners Court, coroner Timothy Brennand heard evidence about the Ashton resident’s repeated attempts to beat the bottle, which included support from Addaction in Wigan and a stay at a residential rehabilitation centre in Oldham, weeks before his death.

While the coroner was satisfied that Mr Callaghan was given plenty of support for his alcohol addiction, he probed medical professionals on the possibility of “missed opportunities” to diagnose an underlying mental health disorder, which could have led to more intensive treatment.

However, Mr Brennand concluded that, although additional mental health support might have helped identify the root cause of Mr Callaghan’s drinking, it was unlikely to have prevented him from continuing his substance misuse.

Mr Callaghan attended St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School in Ashton. Events in his teenage years led him to drink, and throughout his 20s and 30s he battled severe problems with his mental health and wellbeing. He went into rehab venues in the North West on a couple of occasions and had only been home from his latest placement in Oldham for a few weeks before his death.

Jason Callaghan

His first stint in rehab was a success. However, things went downhill again in the later part of his life and he was also admitted to hospital on several occasions, including once for self-inflicted razor blade wounds to his neck and arms, which he admitted was “suicidal intent”, shortly before he died.

The inquest heard that Mr Callaghan had a history of self harming, but that this was the first time he had done so in more than 15 years, and therefore indicated a decline in his mental stability.

Mr Brennand was told that, following these incidents, Mr Callaghan had been discharged from his rehabilitation programme because they did not have the resources to support his mental health, and he was signposted to his GP in Wigan to seek further help.

Andrew Walker, a mental health practitioner at Royal Oldham Hospital, where Mr Callaghan was treated for his self-harm wounds, spoke to Mr Callaghan after his admission. He told the inquest that, apart from the patient’s historic self-harming, he was unaware of his previous history of mental health problems, and did not feel that Mr Callaghan needed referring to a psychiatrist, instead signposting him to a GP.

Coroner Timothy Brennand

Mr Walker added that, had he known the extent of Mr Callaghan’s psychological issues, this information would not have changed his approach to helping him.

Recording a conclusion of alcohol related death, Mr Brennand said: “Jason Jon Callaghan died far too early in his 42 years. It is clear to me that he was a troubled individual who was within the grip of a persistent and enduring relationship with alcohol, in particular alcohol misuse.

“He was a challenging client, patient and therefore in those circumstances, was the subject of community-based treatment and care, with episodic recourse to ongoing treatment, within a structured and escalated environment, in relation to intermittent relapses, escalating into hospitalisation.

“It is clear to me, having heard the full family background, that the problems for Mr Callaghan were to begin when he was a child. He was to endure as a troubled case as a teenager, into life as a young adult, haunted by a variety of personal problems... and it appears self evident that they gave rise to their being a possibility that he was suffering from some form of post traumatic stress disorder, or at the very least a mixed anxiety and depressive condition, which was never formally the subject of a diagnosis, and therefore never treated.”

Mr Brennand added: “I have a lingering suspicion in this case, that the deceased ought to have been recognised as suffering from a severe mental illness, and might well have in fact qualified for escalated care, as being properly identified as suffering dual-diagnosis - that is to say a patient suffering from dependency issues in combination with mental health issues. It is quite clear to me that the reason Jason consumed alcohol was to cope, and to try and forget. Therefore there was an inextricable link.

“However, while a formal diagnosis, had it been made, might well have involved escalated pathways and care, I cannot say that, had that been achieved, the outcome would have been any different. The outcome remains unclear.”

Mr Callaghan is survived by his mum and stepdad Susan and Cliff Stephenson, his sister Jen, and partner Susan Halliwell.

- Anyone struggling with alcohol consumption can seek help at nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse.

- We Are With You, formerly called Addaction, also have a range of services available by clicking here.

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