'The last I heard from my son was a WhatsApp message'

Vicki McCormick's last message from her son was a WhatsApp text
-Credit: (Image: No credit)

On November 4, 2022, Vicki McCormick's life was shattered by a devastating message from her son Callum's WhatsApp text that served as his suicide note.

At the young age of 22, Callum tragically died after being struck by a train. He had been battling with mental health issues for some time and had desperately sought help, pleading with a nurse to section him just a day before his death.

However, he was turned away due to a lack of available beds, with promises that a mental health team would contact him the following morning.

READ MORE: 'I've been seriously ill for months and doctors have no idea why'

Callum waited until 11am without any communication from the hospital. Overwhelmed by despair, he left his home and at 11.13am, sent a heartbreaking final message to his mother via WhatsApp.

He expressed his love for his mum, dad, and family, confessing that he could no longer bear the pain, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The response from the mental health services came too late; a team member arrived at Callum's residence at 11.45am, only to find that he had already passed away.

Vicki, from Wigan, said: "The last I heard from Callum was his suicide note. He thought I was on the plane at the time, coming back from Tunisia - but I was stuck in the airport. He didn't know my flight had been delayed."

She continued, revealing the immediacy of the crisis: "As soon as the message came through I didn't even ring Callum because I knew he wouldn't pick up. I rang my daughter, who was already running to the station - but by that point it was too late. Callum was already dead."

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Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has acknowledged the ongoing high demand for inpatient mental health services across Greater Manchester, emphasising its commitment to working with regional partners to manage and where possible, alleviate this pressure.

Two years after the heart-wrenching loss of her son Callum, Vicki remains convinced that the healthcare system let him down during his time of need, as he had actively sought assistance from his GP and specialist mental health teams.

On October 19, a health professional evaluated Callum and sent an email to his GP at Longshoot Health Centre recommending that he be put on anti-depressants and referred to a community link worker. However, the communication wasn't flagged as "urgent" and there was a mistaken belief that an appointment had been scheduled.

It wasn't until Callum's parents met with the practice manager on October 26 that the anti-depressants were finally prescribed.

Callum's existing depression worsened dramatically after his relationship ended on November 2. He was taken to the A&E department at Wigan Infirmary, where a mental health nurse practitioner deemed him "high risk".

With no hospital beds available, he was released into the care of a home-based treatment team.

The following day, at approximately 5.30pm, Callum confided in a senior nurse practitioner about his desire to take his own life. Despite the severity of the situation, the lack of available hospital beds meant that he could not be admitted, leading the nurse to schedule a discussion about his case for the next day.

Vicki said: "Callum was a firecracker. He made everybody laugh. He was the life and soul of the party. He was just brilliant, always dancing, always joking. He did drama and dance in college. Always he just lit up the room, and if you were having the worst day ever, his laugh would change it.

"He was my best mate. There wasn't a day went by I didn't speak to him, the same with his dad and sister. We had a tight knit relationship. If I went out, it was with Callum. We went bowling and to the pictures. We weren't your usual family, we were a lot closer.

"But he came out of a relationship in February. That really affected his mood and took a lot out of him. But because he wasn't feeling suicidal there was nothing they could do. We booked a holiday in June and he wasn't in the right frame of mind to go but he went anyway and he met a girl, and that brought him right up."

Despite this, he continued to battle mental health issues, with problems exacerbating after another relationship ended.

Vicki said: "When the crisis team came out (on November 3) the woman was so concerned about him she decided to section him under the Mental Health Act. Everything was discussed. She made the phone call. She said she was very concerned. It was a three minute conversation, and they were told they had no beds. and that was the end of the phone call. And that was it."

She continued: "Callum fell through every single net. He told them several times he couldn't keep himself safe. He told the hospital, he told the crisis team, but they wouldn't listen. They said they would come for him in the morning. They didn't come until it was too late.

"He hung on as long as he could. He was up at 5am that morning and hung on until 11am. But he didn't even get a phone-call to say there had been a delay - nothing. When we got his phone back there was a missed call at 1.10pm that day from the crisis team. Callum was dead by then.

"They are letting people down. It's not working. Even after opening up the new mental health suite in the hospital, I'm still hearing of kids passing away. Two months after Callum passed away one of his friends took his own life in the woods. Some of them don't ask for help, some do. Our Callum continuously asked for help. He was begging for help. And yet he was left."

John Foley, Chief Operating Officer at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We express our heartfelt condolences to Callum McCormick's family following his sad death.

"We continue to see sustained demand for mental health inpatient services in Greater Manchester, and operate with high occupancy rates. We are working closely with other providers in the region and our commissioners to work to safely reduce this demand wherever possible by developing effective community crisis alternatives.

"Where an inpatient admission is required, our top priority is always to place patients in the most suitable bed as soon as possible. We allocate all beds based on priority of risk and treatment required. We assess our bed capacity on a daily basis and in cases where there are no available beds in our inpatient units, we request mental health beds from alternative providers.

"Unfortunately, there can still be occasions where patients need to wait for an inpatient bed, and in these instances we follow robust safeguarding and care planning processes to keep people as safe as possible. Support from our Home-Based Treatment Teams is available to patients 24/7, which includes thorough care planning and home visits.

"Our 24/7 mental health crisis helpline is available free of charge for anyone who requires urgent support; and we offer a number of community spaces called 'crisis cafes' across the region where individuals can go for out of hours support and advice from trained mental health workers, including the Mental Health Support Hub at the Lea Baker Cafe in Leigh.

"Urgent help and support is also available from our Mental Health Liaison Service via AandE departments. Last year we opened 'The Makerfield Suite' at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan - an area which provides a calm and comfortable environment for people in a mental health crisis, away from the main A&E waiting area.

"We are very sorry that we could not do more to help Callum and our thoughts remain with everyone who has been affected by this tragedy."

Helplines and support groups

The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you're feeling, or if you're worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

  • CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably (0800 58 58 58) is a leading movement against suicide. It runs a UK helpline and webchat from 5pm to midnight 365 days a year for anyone who has hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support.

  • PANDAS (0808 1961 776) runs a free helpline and offers a support service for people who may be suffering with perinatal mental illness, including prenatal (antenatal) and postnatal depression plus support for their family or network.

  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won't show up on your phone bill.

  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

  • Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.

  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

  • Amparo provides emotional and practical support for anyone who has been affected by a suicide. This includes dealing with police and coroners; helping with media enquiries; preparing for and attending an inquest and helping to access other, appropriate, local support services. Call 0330 088 9255 or visit www.amparo.org.uk for more details.

  • Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.

  • Young Persons Advisory Service – Providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. tel: 0151 707 1025 email: support@ypas.org.uk

  • Paul's Place - providing free counselling and group sessions to anyone living in Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: paulsplace@beaconcounsellingtrust.co.uk

  • The Martin Gallier Project - offering face to face support for individuals considering suicide and their families. Opening hours 9.30-16.30, 7 days a week. Tel: 0151 644 0294 email: triage@gallierhouse.co.uk

  • James' Place - supports men over 18 who are experiencing a suicidal crisis by providing quick access to therapy and support. Call 0151 303 5757 from Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 5.30pm or visit https://www.jamesplace.org.uk/