Published: 12:00, 31 May 2019
| Updated: 12:58, 13 June 2019
A suicidal man made 21 failed attempts to call his GP just hours before jumping to his death from cliffs, it has emerged.
Sleep-deprived Paul Connell, 33, took his own life near the King George VI Park in Ramsgate following a battle with anxiety and depression.
An inquest into his death heard he had seen a counsellor the day before his death, but a referral to mental health services had been rejected.
On the morning of his death, mobile phone records showed he had tried to call his doctor 21 times, but each attempt failed to connect.
A note in his pocket when he was found read: "Voices in my head. I'm sorry. Love you all x".
Now, his family and friends have told how they feel he was not taken seriously by mental health services.
Friend Robert Hughes said: "If you break a bone you go to A&E and get treated but if you've got an issue with your mind it goes on for months and months and that led to Paul's suicide.
"Previously he was the happiest person alive and he spoke out but needed the professional input, and friends and the family aren't professionals."
The hearing at Canterbury Coroners' Court heard how Mr Connell had been travelling Asia with his wife when he suffered altitude sickness at the base camp of Mount Everest.
He texted his mother, Donna Ayres, saying he wanted to throw himself off the mountain, but the thoughts passed after he was airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
He and his wife continued travelling in India for a few more months before returning to Ramsgate in February because Mr Connell was missing his friends and family.
After landing at Heathrow, he was taken straight to the QEQM hospital in Margate by his mum.
Ms Ayres described her son as appearing like "a heroin addict" when he came through the airport gate.
Staff carried out several medical tests, suspecting Mr Connell was suffering from a tropical disease, but the results came back negative.
He was given anti-depressant drugs and sleeping pills to help him rest and underwent an appearance and behaviour assessment.
But doctors never recommended him for further mental health assessment from specialist services.
He was instead referred to the Thanet community mental health team by his GP, but the referral was rejected as he “didn’t fit the criteria for referral and secondary mental health issues”.
Dr Adem Akyol, a GP at the Newington Road surgery, said Mr Connell had suffered with "panic attacks, anxiety and mild to severe symptoms of depression".
He saw Mr Connell on March 11, just two weeks before his death, and concluded his visits to hospital on his return from Asia were "probably retrospective of a longer term medical problem".
DS Paul Deslandes investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr Connell's death.
He told the inquest that at about 11am two dog walkers heard a "loud thud like a boulder falling" before seeing Mr Connell lying face down on the beach 50ft below.
Members of the public attempted to revive him for 15 minutes before paramedics arrived and took over CPR.
He was pronounced dead 25 minutes later.
DS Deslandes ruled out foul play, adding: "There's no formal path to the cliff face. He would have had to climb over the fence or wall. I formed the opinion that he had jumped from the cliff."
Messages on Mr Connell’s phone “did not indicate he was having any suicidal thoughts”, the officer added.
“But he was going through a difficult part of his life and a history of mental health problems. His mental health deteriorated over a short period of time."
Coroner James Dillon ruled Mr Connell had taken his own life.
“The evidence is clear that Paul would’ve deliberately made his way through and climbed over a wall or fence and I can take the view he did take his own life," he said.
“A note was found in his pocket which shows his intent and I can record a death of suicide."
"He played football and was genuine, kind, caring, loveable, and never nasty to anyone..." - Donna Ayres
Speaking after the inquest, Ms Ayres told KentOnline she feels her son was failed by health authorities.
"I feel mental health isn't taken seriously enough," she said.
"There was nothing physically wrong with him - they did all the tests. There was something mentally wrong and they sent him home for me and his wife and three friends to look after because there was no place for him to go.
"He was doing everything right. He was going running, eating and not drinking caffeine or alcohol, and did everything they told him to do.
"A counsellor told him to write notes about how he felt and take them to the beach and set fire to them so all of the thoughts went away.
"He was distressed because it was a windy day and he couldn't light them so we came home and did it. That upset him.
"I said it doesn't matter and he said 'it shows what a bad person I am'. So if you tell me that's a person without a mental problem, I don't know what is.
"It was like having a three-year-old child in the house screaming, running around and throwing things at me, telling me he hated me and didn't know why he'd come home."
Ms Ayres says her son had been "the best, happy, friendly and funny" person.
"He was a bit of a muppet at times, but our muppet," she added. "His nickname was 'hard drive' because of his initials PC. He played football and was genuine, kind, caring, loveable, and never nasty to anyone.
"He had so many different groups of friends. You only had to meet him for 10 minutes and he was your best mate and would do anything for you."
Helen Greatorex, chief executive for Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, said: “We were so very sad to hear of the tragedy of Paul’s death. Our thoughts and sincerest condolences are with his family and those who loved him.
“We have, as everyone would expect, commenced a detailed review in to what happened in the lead up to the tragedy and are doing this in partnership with other agencies who knew Paul.
“We will ensure that in particular, Paul’s family are able if they wish to include questions to which they would like answers.
"We will share the final report with both Her Majesty’s Coroner and Paul’s family.”
Call the Samaritans free on 116 123 if you or someone you know is suffering or visit the charity's website.
You can also find support here.