A "loving" mum who took her own life after suffering from a series of devastating events, including a horrific gang rape, sent her sister a final text saying:"I love you".
Nicola McIntyre, 32, from Hull, struggled from mental health issues in the wake of a work friend’s “betrayal” and flashbacks of the brutal sex attack.
The shop worker, who was described as “kind, loving and so much fun” by her two sisters, was found unresponsive at her home in Anson Road, east Hull, on August 29, Hull Coroner's Court heard.
One of her sister’s Sarah McIntyre said: “She lit up the room and loved to laugh. She was really family orientated, and loved children and animals - more often than not you’d find her sat on the floor playing with children and our family dogs."
It comes as experts say that since last March, coronavirus lockdown measures have "heightened and exacerbated" mental health problems.
The inquest found that Nicola had suffered from mental health issues, which began aged just aged four when her parents split up.
She left school aged 16 to become an apprentice hairdresser and had several rocky relationships from the age of 19.
The court heard how she had a son, but the relationship with his dad had broken down and she moved out of their flat into a council house.
She later moved into a house in Anson Road after meeting her latest partner.
After securing a new job, Nicola became friends with a colleague who she suspected was “conspiring with" her partner.
The friend later admitted to sleeping with him, according to claims heard in court.
Around the same time, Nicola started experiencing “vivid memories and flashbacks" of a gang rape involving a group of men.
Sister Hayley Todd told the court: “I could see that she was changing and becoming deeply depressed.
"She told me that she went to get help from multiple mental health charities. She told me that she felt that no one was helping and that she was failing.”
Hayley said that the coronavirus lockdown also had a harmful effect on her mental health while difficulties in her circle of friends “made her feel more anxious”.
On August 27, Hayley said Nicola seemed “very happy” when the three sisters took part in a three-hour WhatsApp video call that ended at 6pm.
Sarah said she texted her sister to say “I love you” and Nicole texted it back. “That was the last I hear from her,” she said.
Both sisters were informed of Nicola’s death in the early hours of the following morning after she was discovered unresponsive in her home.
She was then transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary, where she was later pronounced dead.
Coroner Rosemary Baxter concluded Nicola had died as a result of suicide.
After the inquest, Nicola’s sister Sarah said: “We are still trying to come to terms with Nicola’s death and are all truly devastated.
"Our hearts are forever broken and she will be missed each and every day.”
It comes as the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the rate of suicide among women has increased in recent years.
In 2019, a total of 1,299 deaths were registered as suicide among females in England, up from 1,221 deaths registered in the previous year.
There have also been increases in the suicide rate among females in England with the 2019 rate (5.2 per 100,000) being the highest observed since 2004 and significantly higher than rates seen in 2016 and 2017, according to the ONS data.
Meanwhile, the rate among females aged 25 to 44 years has significantly increased since 2016 from 4.6 (355 deaths) to 6.1 (476 deaths) per 100,000 females in 2019, the figures show.
While data on 2020 has yet to be released, Şirin Atçeken, psychologist and EMDR specialist at WeCure says lockdowns has “heightened and exacerbated” mental health problems.
She said: “Mental health issues, on a normal level can cause feelings of loneliness, emptiness and feelings of loss, and grief. People suffering will feel that they are in a never ending loop with no end in sight, or light at the end of the tunnel.
“During lockdown, these feelings, and other symptoms including mood swings, and hallucinations in the most extreme cases have intensified. There has also been an increase in people suffering weird nightmares, and night terrors, with a focus on drowning, or being locked in, or chased. All obvious subconscious side effects of the lockdown.”
“Without doubt, the pandemic has heightened, and exacerbated mental health issues, and have caused outbreaks to be more mentally and physically painful, and to last for longer periods of time.”
Dr Shamender Talwar, a social psychologist at the global foundation tuff.earth which champions social integration, also described the effect lockdown has been having on mental health due to the social isolation.
He said: “The impact on suicide varies from age to age, and case by case, but there has definitely been an impact on mental health.
“We have been working from home for such a long time, and we haven’t been seeing people in classic style; the human touch is gone, you don’t feel like a human being as you’re not able to hug or see the people that you are closest to," he said.
“Scientifically and psychologically there has been an impact – we have lost oxytocin from seeing people.”
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
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