Rupert’s Story - Lord Nicholas Monson
This is an excerpt from Lord Nicholas Monson's upcoming book
Four years ago, my son Rupert, then 19, told me he occasionally took cannabis. I wasn’t worried. Rites of passage and all that. Don’t progress to heroin, I warned, recalling funerals of fallen friends.
In January 2017, Rupert took his life in violent fashion. In his last six months, he had become psychotic. He suffered the full gamut of psychosis: schizophrenia, false memories, a God complex, paranoia and visitations.
Of his visitations, the friendliest was from a comedian (Jimmy Carr) who at least made him laugh. The rest of his mind’s gatecrashers were ghouls.
Rupert’s descent into the vortex of psychosis began, his mother and I believe, during his second year at Essex University far from watchful parental eyes. In common with nearly every campus in the country, Essex University is an easy place to obtain recreational drugs.
It was from his digs in Colchester that Rupert rang me last Summer to say that he had failed his university exams but that he had a good reason. He was upset with his five female co-lodgers because they were spying on him. Specifically, he said, they had been breaking into his computer to discover his secrets.
Next month we met and went over the story again. I said I thought the likelihood of his housemates doing such a thing was remote. I then went on to say, as gently as I could, that most would believe he was being paranoid. He threatened to punch me, a first in our relationship.
He soon returned to his mother’s house. She reported to me, some weeks later, that Rupert’s behaviour was increasingly erratic.
He was first seen by the family doctor and then assessed by a psychiatrist. Rupert had become psychotic through suspected drug use, we learned, although it was framed in such an anodyne way as to make us react as if he was suffering no worse than a passing bug. Just keep taking the pills we have prescribed you, said the doctors. Ah, all will be well, his family then thought.
Rupert then took the decision to return to university to retake his exams. He moved into another flat, this time with mates he knew. Before long, it became clear that Rupert was not attending his lectures. He was hostile to his mother and grandmother when they visited. Next week he bellowed at me down the telephone. ‘You think I am going spend money you promised to send me on drugs and drink, don’t you?’ ‘Yes’ I replied. ‘You are right I am!’ He then stated he tried to commit suicide the evening before and he was going to make a proper job of it that night by standing in front of a train.
Intervention followed. Rupert was sectioned. His mother and I came to see him a week later. He was subdued, coherent and back to the polite young man we had always known.
Rupert was released from hospital in mid-November 2016. He left university and moved back home to his mother.
The prescribed medication from hospital slowed him down to the extent that he slept sometimes 14 hours a day. This led him to complain about the pills’ paralyzing effects. Whether he later took all his pills every day in December and January or just pretended to, we do not know. One thing for sure was that he was smoking no cannabis as, simply, he did not have access to it where he was living then with his grandmother and mother.
The last time I saw Rupert conscious and properly alive was just before Christmas at a Chinese restaurant in London.
The peaceable family gathering fell apart when he told us that we had to make the doctors change their medical verdict on him. When his mother and I tried to explain to him that such an outcome was not within our powers, he exploded. ‘I am not psychotic!’ he declared, banging his fist on the table. He proceeded to call me unflattering names. I was unable to reason with him and left.
He spent Christmas with his family in Scotland and then returned to his grandmother’s home in Surrey. On Sunday 15th January, Rupert asked his mother to take him to hospital as the voices in his head, of which he had been continuously complaining, had grown louder and were taunting him, telling him to kill himself. Scared, Rupert wanted to be secure in a hospital, as he had been months before.
Within hours he was assessed at a local outpatients’ clinic as being a high-risk candidate for suicide. Unfortunately, every bed in the Surrey and Borders NHS Trust had been taken that day. Rupert was sent home.
The next day Rupert was assessed again, this time at his family home, by his local psychiatric team. Astonishingly they graded him as being a very low risk candidate for suicide. Two evenings later, Rupert walked out of the house, having had a calm dinner with his grandmother. He walked into nearby woods, never to return home. Discovered in an unconscious state, Rupert was taken away by ambulance.
Round the clock, family and friends sat by his hospital bed, while efforts were made to save him. Five days later, he was pronounced dead. I recall a doctor mentioning to someone that Rupert was another victim of skunk. Skunk, to my untutored ear, was just another name for cannabis.
I decided to learn more about cannabis so I could better understand the reasons as to how and why my son died.
What I discovered shocked me and has led me to campaign for reform of Britain’s drug laws.
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