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Mental illness campaigner committed suicide, inquest hears

Rebecca Luscombe Photo: BPM Media

A former Birmingham university student who campaigned to boost the profile of mental illness killed herself at psychiatric unit, an inquest heard.

Rebecca Luscombe’s work gained national prominence in 2013 when she successfully started a Twitter campaign which ended with supermarkets withdrawing offensive Halloween ‘mental patient’ costumes from their stores and making substantial donations to mental health charities.

The inquest heard that the 23-year-old- who lived in Selly Oak - suffered from an emotionally unstable personality disorder in conjunction with an eating disorder and chronic fatigue.

She was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth hospital after taking an overdose of medication before being referred to the Zinnia Centre in Sparkhill for assessment where she was admitted as a voluntary patient for psychiatric therapy.

Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Coroner Louise Hunt said her mood at the centre was up and down, ranging from feelings of hopelessness and being tearful, while there were also periods when she seemed to be quite content.

But it was discovered that while at the centre Miss Luscombe had self harmed by cutting herself and there were two occasions during one night in September when she was discovered after having put ligatures loosely around her neck.

She appeared to have then settled and the following day went for a walk. Some time after returning she was found to have hanged herself in her room.

“I have had the benefit of reading the letters that Becki had left in her room. They give me a very clear understanding of her intention.”

– The coroner

She recorded a verdict of suicide.

Afterwards, in a statement, her family and friends paid tribute to Miss Luscombe, who had started a music course at the university but had been unable to complete it because of her illness.

“We are heartbroken that Becki, with her eloquence, wit and compassion, has been lost to us in such circumstances. She is irreplaceable. “At least one in four people will suffer mental illness at some point in their lives and young people are particularly vulnerable.”

– Statement by Miss Luscombe's family and friends

Miss Luscombe became involved in Time to Change, a campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and in early 2014 was selected to represent Mind as their West Midlands ‘Voice,’ promoting the cause of mental health in the run-up to the general election. She participated in two of Mind’s videos and in June she and others were invited to a parliamentary meeting at Westminster.

Following her death she was given a posthumous award of ‘Mental Health Hero’ which was presented to her parents, Richard and Sue, by the Deputy Prime Minister.