Renowned menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson will join mental health experts for an online discussion online discussion exploring whether there are links between menopause and suicide.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), the region’s mental health provider will host the online suicide prevention event from midday-1pm on Tuesday 15 March.
The public event will discuss how the menopause affects mental health and can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts.
Joining Dr Newson on the panel will be Heather Metcalf, whose daughter Victoria took her own life, aged 51, after struggling with peri-menopausal symptoms. She will be joined by Victoria’s husband Pete.
Victoria, a mother-of-three children, had no previous history of mental illness but in the summer of 2019, she required hospital admission to maintain her own safety. Victoria was admitted for four months and diagnosed with a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms.
Her mother, Heather, said: “Prior to this, Victoria never displayed any of the tendencies that might result in the condition that was to overwhelm her between 2019 and 2021. She was always measured and unflappable, a calm and safe pair of hands in a crisis. This was what makes the last two years’ experience so atypical of her. As a mother, she cared deeply for her children and loved and supported them throughout school and beyond.”
However, in early summer 2019 Victoria began to feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, complaining of sleeplessness and brain fog, having to check all her work repeatedly.
“Commercial Property Law is very demanding and responsible work,” said Heather. “She therefore consulted her local GP who, discounting perimenopause, prescribed Venlafaxine 75mg and Citalopram 10mg, which had unpleasant and unacceptable side effects. She was then briefly prescribed Diazepam (until early July) and shortly thereafter, finding no benefit in this treatment, became increasingly distressed and felt she was failing her family.”
Heather said Victoria was conscientious, capable, matter of fact and efficient in her professional career, with an analytical, incisive mind. “She was a high achiever who expected the best of herself at all times, which eventually she could no longer manage without appropriate medical help, although her family were supportive and extremely concerned throughout.”
Following three previous attempts in the autumn of 2020, in April 2021 Victoria took her own life. A report following her death said: “At the time of her death, Victoria was presenting on the surface as functioning and nominally ‘well’. It is important to acknowledge that assessment of her was complicated by her ability to present a good picture on the face of things.”
The coroner conclusion was ‘suicide’. Feedback from Victoria’s family and her private psychologist is that Victoria had a strongly held belief that the perimenopause was significantly impacting on her mental wellbeing.
“She had emailed a member of the team to explain her views on this possibility after considerable research into the subject,” said Heather. “But she did not receive a reply.”
Figures show that Incidences of women taking their own lives increases between the age of 45 and 54 years.
GP Louise, who is well known though TV and social media as The Menopause Doctor, said: “Every day, I hear from perimenopausal and menopausal women who are suffering with psychological effects of their low hormones. These include symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, feelings of low self-esteem and reduced self-worth.
“Many women describe feeling flat and joyless but, for some women, these symptoms can be much more severe and frightening. Clinical experience has taught me that many of these symptoms improve with the right dose and type of HRT which often contains oestrogen, progesterone and also testosterone. We are starting to do more research in this important area which has been neglected for so many years. All healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists and mental health workers, need to have education in the perimenopause and menopause.”
Liz Howlett, suicide prevention lead at NSFT, said: “The live suicide prevention session was one of the recommendations from Victoria’s inquest.
“We have been holding suicide awareness events like this for over a year, both for our staff and extended to the public, and are so appreciative that Dr Louise Newson and Victoria’s mum and husband have agreed to join us for this one, which will be open to the public,”
For more details on the event on visit www.nsft.nhs.uk/trust-events