Family in shock after dad of four found hanging

Associate editor — features

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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While the world was celebrating Father's Day on Sunday, Denton “Brown Man” Stewart, himself a father of four, apparently took his own life.

Stewart, a middle-aged carpenter, was employed to Bellevue Hospital, a State-run mental health facility in Kingston. Co-workers found his body dangling from a rope inside an abandoned ward undergoing renovations when they showed up for work on Monday.

The hospital staff members, many of whom gathered in groups under trees just outside the building where their colleague's body was found, were visibly shocked and hurt, many even angry and casting blame on hospital administration for what they described as a tense and stressful working relationship.

“Dis a nuh Brown Man. Dis a nuh 'Brown Man',” one of them kept repeating, shaking his head.

Another said: “A not even one year yet wi bury one a wi other co-worker, and now Brown Man gone too.”

“It hurt the staff, but it hurt me times two,” one nurse was overheard telling her colleagues. “You never come in contact with him and not come away touched.”

Stewart's aunt Judith Brown told the Jamaica Observer that the entire family is reeling from shock.

“Everybody shocked to hear this. None of us know Denton like this,” she said, adding that they didn't see any signs that would suggest he was thinking of taking his own life.

“Denton builds furniture and he had a shop one time. The shop burned down right down to the ground [and] he never did this. He was in a bike accident one time and his fingers were crushed. He spent weeks in KPH (Kingston Public Hospital) recuperating [and] he never did this. So why now?” Brown said.

She said she last saw her nephew two weeks ago when he paid her a visit to assess some carpentry work at her house. She said, too, that he had recently completed a cabinet-making contract at a house nearby. She maintained that if Stewart was having any particular problem, he would have at least shared it with his grandmother, with whom she said he was very close.

“For Denton not to come home, for Denton not to call…” said Brown, her voice trailing off. “Dis hot. It hot bad. Wi not even tell him mother yet. Nuhbody nuh know how fi tell har.”

Stewart's mother reportedly lives overseas.

Attempts to contact Stewart's wife were unsuccessful, but Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Winston de la Haye told the Observer that the deceased was last seen alive by a security guard posted outside the derelict ward.

“It was about 6:30 or 7:00 [Sunday night]. He was seen entering the ward where work is ongoing, so it wasn't unusual for him to be in that area. It wouldn't have aroused any suspicion.

“He has no history with mental illness nor has he displayed any abnormal behaviour leading up to this. He was even properly clothed. Thus far, based on the presentation, it does appear to have been a successful suicide, but the police are involved and we are awaiting an autopsy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the CMO said Stewart's family and colleagues at the hospital were receiving psychological support because of the potential impact of the tragedy.

The irony of Stewart's suspected suicide on the mental hospital compound has not been lost on Dr de la Haye, a psychiatrist by profession. He used the opportunity to articulate for families, coworkers and people in general to be more in tune with loved ones, and to be aware of each other's behaviours.

“This is not about mental illness necessarily. This is about being our brother's keeper,” he reasoned.

“It's really a very unfortunate situation. I'm sure if we look back at the past week, there must have been something unusual about his behaviour because, invariably, there are signs. If you see someone looking a little different than usual, ask: is everything alright? It could be the difference between life and death, as this has shown us,” Dr de la Haye said.

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