A financial advisor in the United Kingdom drowned himself in the River Ouse after the pandemic caused his business to close. The body of 55-year-old York resident Nick Gunnell was found 150 meters upstream from Scarborough Bridge following a six-day search by authorities and the public. A postmortem examination concluded that Gunnell had drowned, which Assistant Coroner John Broadbridge recorded as a suicide.
Based on CCTV footage, Gunnell was last seen going down to the riverside near York city center shortly after 1:00 p.m. of June 30. CCTV footage showed Gunnell was “slightly unsteady on his feet,” indicating that he had drunk alcohol and taken medicine before he died.
Broadbridge said the financial advisor left a note for his loved ones expressing regret and apologizing before he disappeared, with the words “COVID got me.” A subsequent inquest described Gunnell as a “hidden victim” of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic: The coroner told authorities the coronavirus lockdown had negatively impacted the financial advisor’s business.
In addition, Broadbridge also remarked based on evidence that Gunnell had been suffering from anxiety and sleeping problems. The financial advisor talked to his doctor a day before he died and was prescribed medicine for the mental issues he was experiencing, but the doctor’s notes indicated Gunnell did not sound suicidal.
2020 would have been Gunnell’s year if the coronavirus pandemic did not happen
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Gunnell told his wife Jayne that 2020 was going to be ‘their year,’ as he was preparing to sell his business. The couple was also planning a tour of the Greek islands if the deal pushed through.
However, the onset of the pandemic derailed the financial advisor’s plans. Coronavirus travel restrictions meant the holiday did not come to fruition, the lockdown hit his business and the deal to sell his business fell apart, the coroner said.
Nick’s brother Jez Gunnell said after the inquest: “Nick … lived life to the [fullest] and was an amazing husband, father, stepfather, brother, uncle and a great friend to many.” Jez added that Nick was a “hidden victim” of COVID-19, “one of many that have lost their precious lives or are suffering as a result of this devastating disease, that are not on any government statistics.”
Jez also acknowledged how the coronavirus pandemic impacted his brother’s business negatively. “Nick was clearly very disturbed by the onset of [COVID-19.] Apart from the oppressive media blitz, being under lockdown and deprived of his social life, [the pandemic] caused Nick enormous problems for the business that he had developed for 30 years,” he commented. (Related: WHO reverses course, again: Lockdowns as primary response to COVID-19 now said to be “damaging”.)
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected people’s mental health, not just physical health
Social isolation caused by Wuhan coronavirus lockdown orders have caused people’s mental health to deteriorate, with older individuals having a higher risk. A similar case in the U.K. last April showed the detrimental effects of keeping people in their homes for prolonged periods during the pandemic. (Related: Social isolation during coronavirus pandemic tied to higher rates of high blood pressure among patients.)
Former Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall James Connelly Webster was found dead April 1 in his Crackington Haven home southwest of York, which was ruled a suicide. The 58-year-old retired police officer isolated himself in a garden chalet when he started developing a cough and fever in order to protect his family from COVID-19.
Despite his isolation, James still managed to join his wife Maureen for “socially distanced” morning coffee – a tradition they followed even before they got married. However, she and their two children noticed that the family man became “paranoid and neurotic” and had refused to join Maureen for morning coffee as the days passed.
The Websters held a socially distanced meal together on the night before James died, with the former police chief reassuring his family that his thinking was “getting clearer” and he would be out tomorrow.” Maureen discovered her husband’s body the following morning alongside a long and detailed letter revealing his struggles before taking his own life.
She cited the pandemic’s psychological effect – specifically “media, fear and lack of control” – as a contributing factor to James’ decision.
Johns Hopkins University data shows the U.K. currently has a 1.6 million COVID-19 caseload with 3,623 recoveries and 60,201 deaths.
Read more about the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on people’s mental health at Pandemic.news.
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