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Tunbridge Wells: Family of Joel Devine speak of inadequate mental health services

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

The family of a young man found dead in a alleyway claim he was failed by "woefully inadequate" mental health services.

Joel Devine was discovered in the London Road to Edward Street public footpath in Southborough by a 14-year-old girl walking to school.

Emergency services were called to scene in April, but were unable to revive the 26-year-old.

Joel Devine
Joel Devine

At an inquest into Mr Devine's death, held at Gravesend Old Town Hall, pathologist Dr David Fish said the medical cause of death was morphine overdose. Tests revealed he had also been taking cocaine and diazepam.

Det Sgt, Nick Fullerton, who spoke at the hearing, said Mr Devine was a user of illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine. His wallet, which was recovered from the scene, contained two wraps of cocaine.

The father-of-two had just been given a job in the kitchen of the Prince of Wales pub in Tunbridge Wells and recently acquired emergency housing in the area.

DS Fullerton said: "Joel wanted to form a relationship with his two young children. He had restricted access."

Mr Devine battled with mental health issues
Mr Devine battled with mental health issues

On the night of his death Mr Devine finished a shift at the pub, in Camden Road, before going to a nearby restaurant with two friends - who the court heard are known drug users.

The trio later moved onto the Weavers Pub in London road, where they drank throughout the evening.

DS Fullerton said during interview Mr Devine's friends said he was "out of his head" by the end of the night. "Joel was described as popping valium like tic tacs. He went to the toilet in the Weavers Pub. He did not return and was found crushed behind the door, he had froth around his mouth," he added.

Police officers could not track the young father's movements after leaving the restaurant and he was not seen until his body was discovered the next day.

Gravesend Old Town Hall, High Street.
Gravesend Old Town Hall, High Street.

Mr Devine's father, John, spoke during the hearing. He said: "Our family would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming love, support, friendship and kindness since we lost our Joel. From day one he was a lovely boy, always happy and smiling."

He continued to tell senior coroner, Roger Hatch, the family noticed some problems with Mr Devine from a young age.

"He did not settle, struggled with class work and generally seemed to lag behind," he said. "This scenario just continued as Joel and it wasn't long before he needed learning support.

"We began to see behavioural problems and eventually Joel was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome and severe ADHD."

Police at the scene. Picture: Matthew Walker
Police at the scene. Picture: Matthew Walker

Mr Devine was referred to a specialist and in 2012 was diagnosed with severe adult ADHD.

The court heard the trained chef suffered mood swings, depression, reckless behaviour and relationship difficulties. He was also diagnosed with a condition called emotional dysregulation and a borderline personality disorder.

Mr Devine added; "Joel could go through every possible human emotion within a 24 hour period. Joy, anger, sorrow, fear, anxiety, euphoria, paranoia, delusions, rage, low self esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, perceived abandonment and isolation.

"Over time the daily trauma of coping with the emotional and mental turmoil became unbearable" - John Devine

"It has to be said he could also experience quite normal days when he reverted to his funny, cheeky, loving, kind and fun loving self.

"Over time the daily trauma of coping with the emotional and mental turmoil became unbearable and as with a high percentage of patients with emotional deregulation, Joel began to self medicate with prescription and other drugs."

Mr Devine thanked the medical professionals who have "painstakingly" tried to help his son, but labelled mental health services in the UK "broken, under resourced and underfunded."

"Waiting lists are crippingly long, referrals are torturous and everything is subject to funding. Were Joel to have had more immediate, local, appropriate help and support we believe he would still be with us today.

"Mental health services in the UK are woefully inadequate particularly when it comes to vulnerable young adults."

Roger Hatch returned a verdict of drugs related death.

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