Community News

‘All that was required was kindness and compassion.’: Inquest opens into self-inflicted death of trans man, Matty Sheldrick

Graham Robson July 2, 2024

Matty Sheldrick, a trans man who hanged himself outside a hospital emergency department was ‘dismissed, ignored, not communicated with and lied to’ by mental health workers, their mother Sheila Sheldrick has told an inquest.

Matty, a 29 year old autistic person, died on 22 November 2022 after ligaturing outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital. They had left A&E less than two hours before. The inquest, which opened on 1 July, is to examine the circumstances of their death.

Mx Sheldrick, who was autistic and had ADHD, moved to Hove in November 2021 with their rescue dog Lola, hoping to live an independent life and did so ‘with so much hope’ that with the right support, they could live a happy and productive life, their mother Ms Sheldrick said.

Ms Sheldrick told Horsham Coroner’s Court that Mx Sheldrick, who had been using he/him pronouns for several years but had started using they/them recently had ‘reached out for help that did not appear to exist’.

She described how on the ward, Mx Sheldrick was yelled at by a mental health nurse, threatened with being discharged when they said they felt unsafe and held down and sedated when they were having a meltdown.

Ms Sheldrick said the sedation began her child’s distrust of the mental health professionals at the hospital, who worked as part of Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust.

In contrast, she said they spoke fondly of health care assistants and security staff at the hospital, working under University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust.

‘All that was required was kindness and compassion,’ she said.

‘The actions and non-actions of both trusts contributed to Matty’s decline in mental health and their death.’

The inquest heard how Mx Sheldrick’s mental health deteriorated and they tried to kill and harm themselves while in hospital.

They were discharged on September 30 before calling an ambulance with further fears of suicide on November 2 to return to A&E, where they were assessed under the mental health act and a decision was made not to detain them.

Dr Robert Sparks, who did the assessment, said that it is well known that hospital environments such as short-stay wards can make a person’s mental health deteriorate.

‘Every attempt should be made not to have people in hospital, particularly in that sort of environment,’ he said.

Dr Sparks also said there was no hospital that Mx Sheldrick could be sent to, and that ‘mental health services are in crisis’ but in hindsight, he would have detained them.

Ms Sheldrick said Mx Sheldrick’s family are ‘beyond heartbroken’ at their death and that their ‘journey in life was so hard’.

Mx Sheldrick’s GP Dr Sam Hall from WellBN told the hearing there is a ‘massive gap’ in crisis provision relating to mental health, which is a system issue across the country.

‘There is a gap people are falling into and I feel we’re all just fighting fires trying to keep people safe,’ Dr Hall said. The doctor also highlighted that people who are trans and have neurodivergence are often misunderstood and misinterpreted.

‘Someone like Matty needs constant companionship to be able to navigate the world,’ Dr Hall added.

Asked about describing Mx Sheldrick as a vulnerable person, Dr Hall said: ‘I would say that about anybody that is autistic, ADHD and trans.’

Mx Sheldrick, originally from Surrey, was described as a ‘kind, bright, creative, sensitive, gentle soul’ and had ‘great hopes for the future, they really wanted to use all he had learned to help others’, according to their mother.

They performed spoken word and flooded social media with their artwork, Ms Sheldrick added, and began illustrating for a new group with the Clare Project in Brighton, a support group for trans and non-binary people, while living in the area.

Ms Sheldrick recalled Mx Sheldrick saying: ‘I really feel I have found my people here.’

The inquest will consider the care and treatment received by Matty in the lead-up to their death in both hospitals and the community. In particular, the inquest will investigate:

  • Matty’s mental health background
  • The care and support provided by Brighton & Hove City Council between February 2022 to the time of Matty’s death
  • The events that led to Matty’s admission on 5 September 2022
  • The care and treatment provided to Matty during their hospital admission 5 September 2022 – 30 September 2022.
  • The care and treatment provided to Matty by the Crisis Resolution Mental Health team and the Home Treatment team following their discharge from hospital on 30 September 2022 to their readmission on 3 November 2022
  • The events that led to their admission on 3 November 2022
  • The care and treatment provided to Matty from 3 November 2022 until Matty was found hanging on 4 November 2022.
  • The care and treatment on the intensive care unit until the time of Matty’s death of 22 November 2022.
  • The medical cause of Matty’s death.