9 February 2012
Bucks Free Press
A FAMILY has blamed skunk cannabis for causing the mental health problems that ultimately led to a 30-year-old man hanging himself.
Chris Benning, who had a long history of mental health issues, was found hanging from a tree in Hatchett Woods near Frieth by a dog walker on April 9.
The inquest into his death heard he started using skunk – the most potent form of cannabis – at the age of 14, which led to him being diagnosed with schizophrenia a year later.
His sister Juliet said after the inquest the family had “always been convinced that Chris’s use of cannabis, in particular skunk, from such a young age was a major catalyst in his development of schizophrenia”.
Coroner Richard Hulett also warned of the dangers of the drug, saying: “It is always worth underscoring this is not a harmless substance. In the hands of a 14-year-old, it’s the starting point of a disastrous sequence of events.”
But the inquest heard Mr Benning’s death was “out of the blue”, because despite his mental health problems he had only ever shown “fleeting thoughts” of committing suicide.
However in the weeks prior to his death he was prescribed the anti psychotic drug citalopram which, the inquest heard, can lead to patients suffering suicidal thoughts as a side effect and his family had expressed concerns at the new drug.
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Benning’s sister Juliet said: “Although we are aware that there may be little statistical evidence to prove the antidepressant citalopram may lead to a heightened risk of suicide, we have gathered enough anecdotal evidence to prove otherwise.
“We would ask that any prescription of the drug made by those in the health authorities is done so with a warning of these risks.”
She added: “Chris was a troubled soul who lived the latter part of his life plagued by paranoia and fear. Yet despite this he displayed a wonderfully irreverent sense of humour, which with my sister Ali, the three of us shared together.
“He always dreamed about leading a normal life up north where he would not be known and where the stigma of his mental illness would not follow him. He was a deeply loved brother and son.”
Mr Hulett said the support Mr Benning, formerly of Berwick Road, Marlow, received from his family and mental health services was “very thorough” and there were no shortcomings in his care.
He ruled Mr Benning took his own life.