A Forest Hill artist with mental health issues died after being forced to take a “humiliating” drug regime which she likened to “slavery”, an inquest heard.
Former Blackheath librarian Jean Cozens was found hanged with a pink silk scarf around her neck at her home in Kemble Road on Christmas Day 2012, Southwark Coroners’ Court heard on May 6.
The 54-year-old, who suffered from depression, had tirelessly campaigned against taking drugs which ‘violated her human rights’ including an antipsychotic injection in her bottom.
In a YouTube video, Ms Cozens, who had an MA from the Royal College of Art, claimed she was wrongly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder - a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorder.
She said she was given drugs which robbed her of her creativity and took away her energy.
The mother-of-one said: “They used to hold me down and drug me so many times I don’t even remember.
“It is really horrible, it is humiliating.
“You just have to drop your trousers and get injected. It is disgusting and I wish I didn’t have to do it.
“I feel like I am trapped in a position of slavery. I don’t have control over my own mind, my own health and wellbeing, I don’t have a choice about what to put in my body.”
She was a patient of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) for around 20 years and was put on a Community Treatment Order (CTO) in 2010, which required drugs and regular meetings with a care coordinator, after several admissions to hospital for mental health problems.
She was an active member of campaign group Speak Out against Psychiatry (SOAP) and fought her diagnosis and treatment.
She said: “I have never been psychotic.
“I can’t escape from the diagnosis, it has never made me feel better, it has only made me feel worse.”
Jean’s consultant psychiatrist Dr Amanda Hukin told the court she had been “reluctant” to put her on a CTO and did so after many options had been tried including psychotherapy.
Dr Hukin said: “She had multiple admissions to hospital often triggered by stressful life events and poor compliance with medication.
“Jean did not want to be on the CTO and depot (injection). I was very reluctant to go down that route, knowing her views, but it [coming off medication] just wasn’t successful and actually that was equally unpleasant for her.”
She went on to say Ms Cozens had suffered several previous suicide attempts and showed psychotic signs such as delusional beliefs.
She added: “If she had refused medication, she would probably have deteriorated quite quickly and been sectioned.”
A post mortem examination found Ms Cozens had not been taking her medication for at least a few days before her death.
Ms Cozens’ daughter Francesca Puglianini raised concerns including why her mother had not been given more support over Christmas, when she often had relapses, as well as a recent change in her care coordinator and changes in medication.
Coroner Henrietta Hill gave an open verdict, as there was no suicide note and said it could have been a “cry for help”, with cause of death given as suspension.
Ms Hill added: “What has troubled me as a broader question is whether the fact that Jean did not agree with the diagnosis and took her life.
“It is possible the frustrations at the regime led to her frustration and depression. It is simply a possibility.”
Friends and supporters packed out the court room and slammed Ms Cozens’ mental health treatment.
Her friend Sian Whitehead, who worked in mental health for 20 years, said: “She had a beautiful soul but felt trapped and oppressed by those claiming to help her.
“They are pathologising human emotions and drugging people up against their will.
“If someone doesn’t want to take medication and believes it is doing them harm, it will not do them good.
“She was lovely, she was very brave. Nobody would listen to her. I have worked with schizophrenics and never saw any symptoms in her.”
She went on to say the medication was physically addictive and stopping it quickly causes problems as people go through withdrawal.
Artist and friend Wendy Rose, who also suffered from mental health issues and found drugs limited her creativity, managed to wean herself off them. She said: “The worst thing was losing creativity - that was the most devastating thing.
“When you are just with people who tick boxes, TLC doesn’t come into it, you need to know someone cares.”
A SLaM internal investigation found Jean’s “strong opposition” to the CTO could have been a “deciding factor” in taking her own life, the court heard.
A SlaM spokeswoman said: “The trust offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jean Cozens.
“Ms Cozens was thoroughly risk assessed and the care she was given was deemed the most appropriate and suitable for her condition.
“A full internal investigation was carried out following her death with a number of recommendations and an action plan put in place. All actions from the report have been followed. These findings have been shared with the family.”
Anyone affected by issues such as suicide can gain confidential advice and support by calling the Samaritans on 08457 909090 or by emailing email@example.com or visiting the website at samaritans.org/
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