A dedicated NHS nurse who had ‘nightmares about work’ committed suicide after the stress of working 12-hour shifts left her unable to lead a life of her own at home, an inquest heard.
Leona Goddard, 35, had dreams of settling down and having a family but struggled to have a social life after being burdened with unpredictable work hours and extra responsibilities at Prestwich Hospital in Manchester.
Although her work colleagues rated her as ”outstanding” Miss Goddard, a nursing manager who worked in a mental health unit, had developed low self-esteem due to the long hours.
It caused her to mistakenly believe she was not good enough at her job.
On October 3 last year, just six months after she got a promotion, Miss Goddard was found hanged at her family home in the city’s Longsight district.
She left a handwritten note across two pages of A4 paper detailing her “negative feelings, a downward spiral and feelings of self-loathing.”
The Manchester hearing on Wednesday was told Miss Goddard had originally wanted to work as an occupational therapist but studied nursing and psychology and graduated at Manchester University in 2012.
A college friend Danielle Hinds said: “Although she finished the course she never actually enjoyed the role. She felt trapped by qualifications and experience and didn’t want to go through university as she found it stressful.
“She wanted to explore mental health but had anxiety about whether she could handle this.
“She also struggled with shifts she was given and found it difficult to maintain a social life around them.
“Leona was saving money for a house deposit and she was looking for a home she wanted to live in but didn’t find anything and it was difficult for her to carry out her search because of shifts she was assigned to.”
Ex-boyfriend Peter Schaffer said: “Leona had a wish to have children one day and start a family of her own and no doubt she would have been a great mother. But when she was working for the NHS, there was changing shift patterns and she felt frustration at the unpredictability of shifts.
“A new position was offered to give her new skills and experience and more responsibilities. The plans were for her to take in extra responsibilities and enable her to get on a course to improve her employability.
“She did want to stay in mental health and the NHS but in a capacity that would give her more of a social life.
“The only reason she stayed in the job that was not healthy for her was a light at the end of the tunnel. There were many difficulties when she started in the new position and she was left increasing amount of responsibilities, workload, absence of training – and not long after she was signed off work.
“We had long conversations to try to help her to find other opportunities but over the weeks’ communication was deteriorating and I ended the relationship. She was upset and my intention was to give her space and then have a conversation about it. But tragically she took her own life a week later and that never materialised.”
Claire Hilton, a ward manager in charge of drug and alcohol issues at Prestwich hospital said: “Leona started in June 2016 and was promoted to senior staff nurse in June 2018.
“She was very capable and on August 16 and 17 performed as the duty manager. It was a very challenging time and we did speak after this. Both of us felt she was struggling in a lack of confidence in her own capabilities – although it was not justified. She was more than capable.
“On September 7, I received a call from Leona that she had seen her GP. Her mood was low and she was feeling anxious she was signed off for two weeks.
“She phoned in September 20 but was not ready to come back and I anticipated another sick note. On the Monday I got a text asking if I was working and if free to meet that day. She said she felt low and had not been out of bed for a week beforehand.
“Her death was a shock for colleagues and patients. She was really valued, rated as outstanding and we had started a memory book with pictures and recollections for her family. We have nothing but fond memories for Leona.”
Work colleague Sianne Donovan said: ‘”Leona’s job pattern and shifts were a big factor in her unhappiness even before she got the promotion.
“She definitely felt unsupported and many times I told her to leave and find something else. She was looking for other jobs when she called me and was signed off when she definitely needed some rest.
“When Leona split with her boyfriend had never heard her so upset before I encouraged her to get some air but she didn’t want to see anybody for anybody to see her crying. Her death was a terrible shock a huge loss to her friends and family.’
Leona’s mother Corrine Goodridge said: ‘”The job at Prestwich involved her treating patients with drug and alcohol issues.
“She got a promotion six months before her death but I think she was in two minds about it and I was not sure she was feeling positive about it.
“The shift work in particular got her down as she did a 12 hour shift. Leona had not had any long term steady relationship and the most recent one ended by text message.
“Despite the fact Leona might have been stressed at work none of use fully realised she was feeling depressed and sad. Her death has affected the whole family deeply all miss her, asking why this happened.”
Police coroners officer Marie Logan said: “Sadly Leona seems to have been suffering from low self esteem and depression and had been off sick at work.
“She had difficulties coping with her recent promotion she had but these feelings were born out of her – rather than by other people.
“She was seen as very much a clever, caring and very competent nurse and her colleagues felt the promotions as justified as she was more than capable. Leona’s feelings were entirely about herself. The note she left indicated depression and low mood and things she felt she needed to do to get her life on track.”
A doctor’s report read to the hearing said Miss Goddard had been to see her GP in the weeks leading up to her death.
She said she felt “unsupported” and “had nightmares about work” and was offered anti-depressants but she refused saying if work “got sorted out she would feel better.”
Recording a conclusion of suicide coroner Angharad Davis said: “Leona worked as a nurse in alcohol rehabilitation and recently been promoted to team manager.
“Colleagues describe her as a bright, clever, caring nurse but it clear from the evidence that the job role was causing Leona stress because of the difficulties working and the stress of the job itself.
“Also Leona did not share the same views of herself as the colleagues had of her. They thought she was very capable and deserving of that promotion whilst Leona had been suffering stress about her work for some time and was signed off for work for a few weeks.
“Have considered all the evidence read and heard it seems that Leona was under a great deal of stress going on for a long time. She had very low self-esteem and did not recognise in herself the person that everybody else saw.
“She was a young woman who made a career helping people who were in trouble and using skills that she had to best effect. It’s absolutely tragic that she didn’t recognise what a wonderful person she was.”
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