A teacher has taken his own life after suffering a bout of crippling altitude sickness during a trekking trip to the Himalayas with his wife.
Brit Paul Connell was struck by such terrible anxiety that he was flown off the 8000m Annapurna range after climbing just under a third of the way up.
The trip was the start of a downward spiral that eventually led to Mr Connell, 33, returning home only to throw himself to his death off cliffs near his family home in the UK after calling his GP 21 times that day but failing to get through.
Paul Connell was flown off the 8000m Annapurna range after climbing just under a third of the way up. Picture: Triangle NewsSource:Supplied
In his pocket, a note was found which simply read: “Voices in my head. I’m sorry. Love you all x.”
Now his wife Lisa has spoken out to warn others to watch out for the signs of mental health decline.
The 35-year-old said: “Paul was a really happy guy, he had a great life and he wasn’t suffering with depression or anxiety.
“It was something that happened really fast, really intensely over such a short space of time.
“This can happen to anyone, it can happen to the strongest of people physically and mentally.
“Someone can change, something can suddenly snap in someone’s head. You just never know.”
Mr and Mrs Connell were travelling on a trip of a lifetime to Nepal. Picture: The SunSource:The Sun
TRIP OF A LIFETIME
Mr and Mrs Connell were travelling on a trip of a lifetime to Nepal and set out in September last year.
They were due to spend two months in the area, but Mr Connell suddenly began suffering panic attacks and severe anxiety and was unable to sleep.
While he was up there, he texted his mum Donna Ayres to say he wanted to jump off.
Mrs Connell said her husband became so unwell so quickly that he paid for a helicopter to take him back to the foot of the mountains.
The Annapurna Range is one of the most hazardous to climb in the world in the Himalayas.
The peaks — which include the world’s 10th highest mountain, Annapurna I Main, kill almost a third of those who attempt to climb them with 61 deaths out of 191 summit ascents.
Lisa Connell said her husband became so unwell so quickly that he paid for a helicopter to take him back to the foot of the mountains. Picture: Triangle NewsSource:Supplied
After leaving the Himalayas, Mr Connell rapidly improved.
He recuperated for several months as the couple moved on to travel in India, before he slipped into a spiral of depression and insomnia from which he never recovered.
Struggling to sleep, Mr Connell flew home to Ramsgate in the first week of February where he was rushed straight from the airport to emergency at the QEQM Hospital in Margate by his mother.
She told an inquest into his death he looked “like a heroin addict” when she met him off his flight.
Mr Connell, a huge Arsenal fan, was in and out of hospital over several months, and although he had counselling he struggled to get a grip on his anxiety.
Doctors were left baffled by his case because he had never suffered from mental health problems before hiking to 3000m.
An inquest at Canterbury Coroner’s Court found Mr Connell jumped to his death from the cliffs near the seaside town on March 26.
When the pair were in Bangalore in January, Mr Connell stopped sleeping once again.
Mrs Connell told an inquest her husband started having panic attacks. Picture: Triangle NewsSource:Supplied
Mrs Connell, who is from Derry, Northern Ireland, said: “Paul woke up at 4am one night and said he needed to go home.
“I could see that he was still having panic attacks, and this is the point he started talking about dark thoughts.”
Mrs Connell took him to hospital again, and said he began crying and pleading with doctors: “If you have to sedate me, sedate me, just please make me sleep.”
They carried out physical checks on Mr Connell, but could not find anything wrong.
She explained: “We were hoping something physical would show up.
“Something which would explain Paul being like this, because this person was no longer the Paul we all knew and loved. It was like a different person.”
While in hospital he tried to injure himself with a rock.
Coroner James Dillon ruled that Mr Connell had taken his own life. Picture: Triangle NewsSource:Supplied
He was given antidepressants and sleeping pills, but the inquest on May 31 heard that although he had seen a counsellor the day before his death he was not recommended for further mental health assessments from specialist services.
Mr Connell took his medication, saw his therapist and spent time with his parents.
Mrs Connell said: “He was seeing his counsellor once a week, he was doing everything.”
DS Paul Deslandes investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr Connell’s death and told the inquest that two dog walkers heard a “loud thud like a boulder falling” before seeing Mr Connell lying face down on the beach 50ft below.
In his pocket before he died, Mr Connell had a note that read, “voices in my head. I’m sorry. Love you all x.” Picture: Triangle NewsSource:Supplied
Members of the public attempted to revive him for 15 minutes before paramedics arrived and took over CPR but he died 25 minutes later.
Coroner James Dillon ruled that Mr Connell had taken his own life.
In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged 15 to 44, while 2348 blokes died by suicide across the country in 2017, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Helen Greatorex, chief executive of the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, said: “We were so very sad to hear of the tragedy of Paul’s death.
“Our thoughts and sincerest condolences are with his family and those who loved him.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For help with depression or anxiety please see Beyond Blue for a list of organisations that can help.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission
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