Teacher, 33, jumped to his death after suffering crippling altitude sickness while trekking in Himalayas as wife warns ‘it could happen to anyone’

0
127


A TEACHER has killed himself after suffering a bout of crippling altitude sickness during a trekking trip to the Himalayas with his wife.

Brit Paul Connell was struck by such terrible anxiety that he was airlifted off the 8,000m Annapurna range after climbing just under a third of the way up.

Paul Connell, who killed himself after getting anxiety from altitude sickness
Triangle News
Lisa and Paul Connell while they were hiking in the Annapurna range in Nepal in October 2018, where Paul was struck down with anxiety due to altitude sickness
Triangle News
Paul Connell was struck by such terrible anxiety that he was airlifted off the 8,000m Annapurna range after climbing just under a third of the way up
Triangle News
Lisa and Paul Connell at their ‘perfect’ wedding on a beach in Vietnam in 2014
Triangle News

The trip was the start of a downward spiral that eventually led to Mr Connell, 33, returning home only to throw himself to his death off cliffs near his family home in Ramsgate, Kent.

In his pocket, a note was found which simply read: “Voices in my head. I’m sorry. Love you all x.”

Now his wife Lisa has spoken out to warn others to watch out for the signs of mental health decline.

The 35-year-old said: “Paul was a really happy guy, he had a great life and he wasn’t suffering with depression or anxiety.

“It was something that happened really fast, really intensely over such a short space of time.

“This can happen to anyone, it can happen to the strongest of people physically and mentally.

“Someone can change, something can suddenly snap in someone’s head. You just never know.”

TRIP OF A LIFETIME

Mr and Mrs Connell were travelling on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Nepal and set out in September last year.

They were due to spend two months in the area, but Mr Connell suddenly began suffering panic attacks and severe anxiety and was unable to sleep.

While he was up there, he texted his mum Donna Ayres to say he wanted to jump off.

Mrs Connell said that her husband became so unwell so quickly that he paid for a helicopter to take him back to the foot of the mountains.

The Annapurna Range is one of the most hazardous to climb in the world.

The peaks – which include the world’s tenth highest mountain, Annapurna I Main, kill almost a third of those who attempt to climb them with 61 deaths out of 191 summit ascents.

After leaving the Himalayas Mr Connell rapidly improved.

He recuperated for several months as the couple moved on to travel in India, before he slipped into a spiral of depression and insomnia from which he never recovered.

Struggling to sleep, Mr Connell cut his trip of a lifetime short and flew home to Ramsgate in the first week of February, where he was rushed straight from the airport to A&E at the QEQM Hospital in Margate by his mother.

LOOKED ‘LIKE A HEROIN ADDICT’

She told an inquest into his death he looked “like a heroin addict” when she met him off his flight.

Mr Connell, a huge Arsenal fan, was in and out of hospital over several months, and although he had counselling he struggled to get a grip on his anxiety.

Doctors were left baffled by his case because he had never suffered from mental health problems before hiking to 3,000m.

An inquest at Canterbury Coroner’s Court found Mr Connell jumped to his death from the cliffs near the seaside town on March 26.

When the pair were in Bangalore in January, Paul stopped sleeping once again.

I could see that he was still having panic attacks, and this is the point he started talking about dark thoughts


Lisa ConnellPaul’s wife

Mrs Connell, who is from Derry, Northern Ireland, said: “Paul woke up at 4am one night and said he needed to go home.

“I could see that he was still having panic attacks, and this is the point he started talking about dark thoughts.”

Mrs Connell took him to hospital again, and said he began crying and pleading with doctors: “If you have to sedate me, sedate me, just please make me sleep.”

They carried out physical checks on Mr Connell, but could not find anything wrong.

She explained: “We were hoping something physical would show up.

“Something which would explain Paul being like this, because this person was no longer the Paul we all knew and loved. It was like a different person.”

While in hospital he tried to injure himself with a rock.

He was given anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but the inquest on May 31 heard that although he had seen a counsellor the day before his death he was not recommended for further mental health assessments from specialist services.


If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans (free) on 116123 or 020 7734 2800.


Mr Connell took his medication, saw his therapist and spent time with his parents.

Mrs Connell said: “He was seeing his counsellor once a week, he was doing everything.”

However a month later he took his own life after making 21 attempts to call his GP, but his calls failed to connect.

DS Paul Deslandes investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr Connell’s death and told the inquest that 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 but he died 25 minutes later.

Coroner James Dillon ruled that Mr Connell had taken his own life.

Last year, research published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry found people living in high-altitude areas of the United States are more likely to commit suicide and suffer depression.


Helen Greatorex, chief executive of the 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.”

The Samaritans can be contacted for free at any time on 116 123.

YOU'RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123

Paul Connell at Holi Festival, in Hanoi, where the couple lived for five years
Triangle News
Lisa and Paul Connell at a football match in India. Paul was huge football fan and supported Arsenal
Triangle News
Lisa and Paul Connell while they were hiking in the Annapurna range in Nepal in October 2018
Triangle News
Paul and Lisa Connell in Cambodia travelling
Triangle News
The trip was the start of a downward spiral that eventually led to Paul, 33, throwing himself to his death off cliffs in Kent
Triangle News
Paul killed himself after suffering a bout of crippling altitude sickness during a trekking trip to the Himalayas with his wife
Triangle News

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at tips@the-sun.co.uk or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here