Wamuran's Andrea Mafliet, guidance officer at Woodford, with a photo of her partner Gavin Woods, who was deputy principal at Burpengary State School before taking his own life.
Wamuran's Andrea Mafliet, guidance officer at Woodford, with a photo of her partner Gavin Woods, who was deputy principal at Burpengary State School before taking his own life. Rae Wilson

Fight over phone bill could have lead to deputy's suicide

AN INDEPENDENT psychiatric review concluded the minor argument a Burpengary deputy principal had with his partner could have been "the straw that broke the camel's back" on his path to suicide.

"...but that straw would not have broken the camel's back if it wasn't already overloaded," Dr Joan Lawrence said.

She told Brisbane Coroner's Court there were numerous contributing factors after reviewing all the material about Gavin Woods' death near his Wamuran home on the Sunshine Coast in June, 2011.

Dr Lawrence said she found Mr Woods had been suffering a major depressive illness since 2002 and he moved schools to avoid his problems with principals.

"He tended to deal with stressors in the workplace by moving and changing the circumstances and thinking that solved the problem," she said.

"But the problem was within himself as well so it arises again.

"That is a pattern of avoidance ... a problem solving or a defence mechanism.

"It, perhaps, seemed to solve an immediate problem."

Dr Lawrence said moving from north Queensland to the Sunshine Coast, changing his anti-depressant medication, being accused of stealing chocolate money at the Burpengary State School and having his work performance questioned would have had a cumulative effect.

She said he would have had a negative view of the world, had problems with concentration, could not focus and it would have just compounded with each perceived issue arising.

Dr Lawrence said a meeting with a union official and an Education Queensland human resources officer a few days before Mr Woods died, about trying to place him at another school, and an argument with his partner about an excessive phone bill, could have made a depressed person's self-esteem reach bottom.

"Mr Woods seemed to run out of options, so to speak," she said.

"(Avoidance is) an effective way of dealing with problems up to a point but it usually brings more problems for the individual."

Dr Lawrence said Mr Woods was taking a large dosage of an anti-depressants but his Cairns doctor decided to try a new medication to deal with increased symptoms following alleged bullying from his principal.

She said Mr Woods was on about a quarter of the dosage he should have taken but that was normal because it should be increased incrementally to monitor any side-effects.

The inquest continues.

For support on suicide prevention, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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