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Maidstone inquest hears Gillingham woman Anne Tribe committed suicide because of stress at work

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

A formal complaint has been made against Kent County Council after one of its employees committed suicide due to stress at work.

Anne Tribe, who was an administration officer for the authority for more than 15 years, was found dead at home in January.

She had taken an overdose of anti-depressants after a turbulent period at work, in which she had been unable to cope with changes in her office at County Hall, Maidstone.

Anne Tribe with sisters Susan and Helen
Anne Tribe with sisters Susan and Helen

A suicide note found next to her body said: “I have done this because of work”.

At an inquest into the 46-year-old’s death, mid Kent and Medway coroner Patricia Harding heard she suffered two brain haemorrhages – one in 2005 and a second in 2012 – which left her with severe mental fatigue.

Occupational health therapists said she needed a desk at the edge of the office and against a wall, to minimise the effects of it.

This was provided, but last June Miss Tribe took an overdose after the breakdown of her marriage.

Anne Tribe, pictured with her nephew, Grant, took her own life because of the stress of work, an inquest heard
Anne Tribe, pictured with her nephew, Grant, took her own life because of the stress of work, an inquest heard

In the following months, she suffered from severe depression.

A statement read at Maidstone’s Archbishop’s Palace on Wednesday, from one of her four sisters, Yvonne Turner, said on returning to work her sister’s job role had changed and her desk was in the middle of the office.

She said: “Anne said she involved Unison as she was concerned about the impact of the move on her mental fatigue. She felt so stressed she had to take a further six weeks off.”

During this time the court heard Miss Tribe seemed extremely positive and was planning for the future. Miss Turner said by the November, her sister’s demeanour drastically improved and it was as if “she could see the light at the end of a dark tunnel”.

Anne Tribe with Paige and George, her niece and nephew
Anne Tribe with Paige and George, her niece and nephew

However, when she returned to her office in January, her mental fatigue worsened.

Family members told the coroner Unison representatives believed the seating position and strain put on Miss Tribe was unacceptable.

The court heard she was given the option to wear headphones while working or move to a separate room to reduce the aggravating factors.

But Miss Tribe, of First Avenue, Gillingham, told her family she was exhausted and could not deal with it any more.

The court also heard Miss Tribe discussed her depression and suicide attempt with a colleague who she regarded a close friend, but felt discriminated against when the woman expressed her strong feelings against suicide.

In Miss Turner's statement she said her sister was extremely upset that someone she considered a friend would not speak to her because of her actions.

Susan Caveney, another of Miss Tribe's sisters, said in a statement read out in court: "Anne told me that she felt she was being punished for trying to commit suicide in June when her husband left her. She also told me that her manager at the time did not believe in suicide and could no longer support her."

The inquest took place at Archbishop's Palace
The inquest took place at Archbishop's Palace

More than 200 different tablets were found at her home and a toxicology report revealed fatal levels of anti-depressants in her blood. Mrs Harding recorded a verdict of suicide.

Speaking after the inquest, a spokesman for Unison said they had contacted Kent County Council a week after her death. They added: "A health and safety officer from Unison has put in a safety complaint but we are still waiting for a response from Kent County Council."

In response, a Kent County Council spokesman said: "It is a tragedy that Anne Tribe took her own life. A trade union complaint was lodged with the council but was deferred in view of the formal inquest.

“Kent County Council was not required to give evidence at the inquest proceedings and the coroner has clearly stated that her death was not linked to her employment with KCC.”

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