‘Everyone had a nice word to say about Andy’: Devoted dad-of-three tragically took his own life
An “amazing and dedicated” father of three tragically took his own life after struggling with his mental health, an inquest heard.
Andrew Cooper was described as a kind gentleman with a great sense of humour. The 31-year-old died on March 2 last year after struggling with poor mental health.
His wife Abigail Cooper told an inquest: “Andy was the most amazing father. His children were his whole life and meant the world to him. Andy and I were childhood sweethearts and best friends.
“He supported everything I did and always put me first. He was very close to his family, he worked with them in the family business and Andy and his brother were best friends.”
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A dedicated Middlesbrough FC fan, Andrew worked as a contracts manager for family business Ultimate Windows and was previously a surveyor.
Towards the end of 2021, Andy was struggling with his mental health and spoke to his GP. Andy self-referred for further mental health support and had an assessment appointment for 22nd December. Assistant Coroner Karin Welsh heard how Andy and Abigail were separated but remained close friends and for some time lived with their three children in their Wynyard home.
But just over a week before his appointment he was assessed by Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust at Roseberry Park Hospital, a mental health hospital in Middlesbrough. It followed an incident at his home where the police were called due to concerns for his welfare on December 13. Andy was further assessed by the intensive home treatment team.
Steven Atkinson, a community psychiatric nurse at TEWV, said: “I met him on our last day of engagement. Throughout our engagement there was improvement. There was a medication review, he was sleeping better and his appetite improved.”
Concerns were raised at the time about a decision to fire Andrew on December 27, just a day before a wedding Abigail was due to attend, which she worried would cause Andy some distress. But Mr Atkinson says after speaking to Andy he didn’t feel there was any concern.
The next day, Abigail called the intensive home treatment team about a series of messages she had received from Andy. But the trust could find no record of the calls when a serious incident investigation was carried out into his care.
Andrew Cooper with his wife Abigail and their children (Image: Family Handout)
Although the trust’s report found no significant failings, it highlighted a number of lessons learned from the care Andrew received. These include how neither Andrew nor his family were given a written version of his care plan; confusion around the different parts of the service; long waiting times for access to further services not operated by TEWV and how the minimum standard for record keeping was not met – in relation to the undocumented calls.
Jane O’Neil, a mental health nurse who was the service manager for the crisis team at the time, outlined a number of actions taken as a result of the report, including a new leaflet explaining the Tees service, as well as a new quality assurance policy to look at issues such as ensuring that written care plans are distributed.
She also said that going forward the trust could also look into recording telephone conversations.
Abigail added: “Everyone had a nice word to say about Andy. He was so kind-hearted and would do anything for anyone. He had an extremely close group of friends that he grew up with.
“Andy was a gentleman with a kind nature and a wonderful sense of humour. He loved football – supported Middlesbrough Football Club – and enjoyed watching and playing darts.
Andy Cooper (Image: Family Handout)
“He is so missed by everyone and our lives have not and will never be the same without him.”
Andrew had previously spoken to his GP about dealing with low moods in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Abigail, who is the mother of Andy’s three children Isaac, Madeline and Evan, told the inquest that the pair had spent the New Year reconciled and were trying to make their relationship work. She described how the loving father cared for her when she fell ill with covid and it felt like they were getting the “old Andy” back.
But following an out-of-character incident, Andy texted Abigail, who was unavailable due to a work commitment, about wanting to “break free”. She didn’t see the message until some time later. Tragically, Andy took his own life.
Karin Welsh said there was no causal link between Andy’s death and the care he received from TEWV. She concluded that Andy, from Billingham, had died by suicide.
Abigail told Teesside Live: “Andrew is and always will be missed. Throughout this devastating year we have had a lot of support from friends and family but are very grateful to The Headlight Project for all the work they do.”
She added that she hoped the actions the trust had introduced would help other families.
Patrick Scott, managing director of the Durham, Tees Valley and Forensic care group at the trust, said: “Our thoughts are with Andrew’s family at this difficult time. We have completed a review of Andrew’s care and treatment to understand and address areas where we can improve. Although the knowledge we found did not contribute to Andrew’s death, we will continue to improve our services to make sure we provide the best possible care to the people we support.”