Charlotte Cope, from Gelli, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales, who took her own life during the lockdown (Photo: family handout)
A young paramedic took her own life during the lockdown after being publicly shamed on Facebook for littering, an inquest has heard.
Charlotte Cope, from Gelli, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales, who was described as “well-loved”, was found dead at her family home in April 2020.
The 23-year-old member of the Welsh Ambulance Service was said to have suffered from an eating disorder and anxiety, but her mother insisted her daughter had “everything to live for”.
Litter shaming Facebook post
The day before her death, photos of Miss Cope in her uniform were uploaded to social media by a member of the public who claimed she had seen her littering outside her home.
Miss Cope had been on her way to work a night shift when she stopped and was pictured standing outside her car next to a pile of food waste and packaged food items.
She was told about the post targeting her by her line manager at Gelli Ambulance Station. She admitted wrongdoing and said she would pay whatever fine was issued.
However, by the time she woke the next day the post had been shared hundreds of times, according to her family.
“That is what pushed her over the edge,” Ms Cope’s mother, Heidi Cope, said following a hearing at South Wales Central Coroner’s Court.
‘She loved her job’
The inquest was told that Miss Cope was a happy child who was enthusiastic about sports, becoming Welsh judo champion three times.
But, in 2012, at the age of 15, she developed anorexia and was spent several weeks in hospital undergoing treatment for the disorder.
She went on to study health and social care in college and attended Plymouth University to train to be a paramedic, joining the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2018 after graduating.
She was said to have been a well-liked member of the team who “loved her job” and enjoyed helping and saving people.
Despite this, she continued to suffer with her mental health at times and family members said they believed she had never recovered from her eating disorder and was a “troubled soul”.
On 13 April the day of her death, Miss Cope had spent some time downstairs with her parents before returning to her bedroom at around 1.30pm, and was said to have appeared “normal”.
She was found dead by her mother at around 8.30pm.
‘Shocked’ paramedic colleagues attended to her
Paramedics who attended Mrs Cope’s 999 call were colleagues and friends of Miss Cope and in statements read out at the hearing said how “shocked” they were, and described her as “popular and well-loved”.
A message found on Miss Cope’s body directed family members to look at the notes she had written on her phone.
Those notes said she wanted the “horrendous” and “disturbing” thoughts in her head to stop, repeatedly said she was sorry, and thanked her colleagues for all the memories they shared.
Assistant coroner Rachel Knight said: “Charlotte had a complex history including a longstanding eating disorder, depression and anxiety, and was further upset by a post on social media that likely caused her to be embarrassed.”
Recording the cause of death as suicide, Ms Knight said to the family: “I want to say how truly sorry I am for the loss of Charlotte. It is obvious to me how much you loved her, and how much she is missed.”
‘What a dangerous and nasty place Facebook can be’
Following the hearing, Mrs Cope said she believed the Facebook post had contributed to her daughter’s death.
“I believe she would be here today if it wasn’t for that post,” she said.
“She loved her family, her job, and the gym. She’d recently bought a car, booked to go on holiday with her friends, and got concert tickets to see Pink live.
“She had everything to live for.”
She added: “Charlotte did have anxiety and was obviously still struggling with her eating disorder and we supported her with that – we even built her a gym in the garage so she could continue to work out during lockdown. But I think the post pushed her over the edge.
“That day she woke up to find the post had been shared hundreds of times and the messages being written about her were vile and she was too embarrassed.
“I just want people to realise what a dangerous and nasty place Facebook can be, and what they post can have an impact on someone and their family.”
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