Heartbroken family of dad who killed himself demand better of Portsmouth’s health services

Anthony Bessey died at the age of 28
Anthony Bessey died at the age of 28
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‘NOW is the time we desperately need to pull together as a community to help those struggling with mental health.’

That is the rallying cry being made by the heartbroken family of Anthony Bessey, 28, after he took his own life.

My uncle has lost his life now because he has been failed by the system.

Toni Bessey

It comes as health bosses and charities admitted mental health services in the county were ‘stretched’.

Speaking out for the first time since July’s tragedy, Mr Bessey’s family said Anthony’s ‘cries for help’ went unanswered because of the beleaguered services.

Now they are demanding the area’s community unites to look out for those in need and are calling on the government to plough more cash into improving mental health services nationwide.

Toni Bessey, 29, of Bedhampton, was Anthony’s niece. She said: ‘Mental health is the silent killer and it took Anthony away from us.

‘We’re not the only family this has happened to but it seems to be in the last year suicides in young men have increased so much.

‘There’s just no support out there, there really isn’t.

‘My uncle has lost his life now because he has been failed by the system.’

As previously reported the dad-of-one, of Beresford Close, Waterlooville, hanged himself after a long struggle against mental illness.

His family said that in an effort to cope with his problems, which stemmed from relationship breakdowns and a harsh childhood, Mr Bessey turned to drink and drugs to ‘numb the pain’.

But Ms Bessey – who is a safeguarding officer and volunteer with Home-Start – said this led him into a vicious circle.

‘He wanted to sort his life out, settle down with a lady, have a home and a good job – more children – but he was just stuck in this vicious circle going round and round,’ she said. ‘He just wanted someone to grab him and say “let’s do something about this”.’

An inquest held last month heard how Mr Bessey, a groundsman with a 10-year-old daughter, had attempted to take his own life in September 2016.

And although he turned to his GP afterwards, the family said the wider support from health services, in the wake of his first suicide attempt, had been lacking.

Ms Bessey said: ‘You need more than just one person to monitor someone who has just tried to hang themselves because that was a major cry for help.’

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, cabinet member for adult social care and health with Hampshire County Council, said improving services was a top priority but admitted it was a challenging time.

The North West Havant ward councillor said: ‘I have every sympathy for this family and what they have been through.

‘Mental health is a priority for us. We have local well-being centres across the county for people to self-refer and we have our mental health teams who work very closely with the community.

‘Could we do more? I think there’s always a question of how much more we could do. But on the whole, I think our well-being centres have been a great success.’

Dan Warren-Holland is the primary employment team leader at Solent Mind, one of the county’s mental health charities. He runs the Portsmouth Wellbeing Centre, in Palmerston Road, Southsea.

He said the number of people with mental health problems nationally had surged and that the Portsmouth area was no different, with more people visiting the centre every day for help.

‘Mental health services don’t have the same kind of funding as other services,’ he said. ‘The services here are stretched.’

Mr Bessey’s mum, Anna, has since paid tribute to her son. She said: ‘He was a joker. He had a heart of gold. But he should have buried me. I shouldn’t have had to bury him. That was very hard.’

The family are now looking into to setting up a charity in Mr Bessey’s honour and are appealing for those with knowledge on doing so to get in touch. To help, email letstalkmetalhealthantbessey@gmail.com