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'They changed his personality': Mother's warning over legal highs after son's suicide

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A mother has issued a stark warning about the dangers of legal highs after attributing her son's suicide to the drugs.

Benjamin Westwood, known as Ashley, killed himself at his Amblecote home in May aged 49.

Black Country Coroners Court heard Mr Westwood had started taking legal highs in the year prior to his death and these had 'changed his personality' dramatically.

He became depressed and self-harmed, leading to several stints in hospital.

Assistant coroner Kally Cheema recorded a verdict of suicide after Mr Westwood was found hanged in his home by his mother Jacqueline in Perivale Way on May 27.

After the hearing, Mrs Westwood said: "Legal highs are so easy to get hold of and Ashley had taken them for the last six to 12 months.

"You can just go on the internet and get them delivered to your door - it's that easy. Taking those drugs changed his personality and I think that was a big contributing factor to what happened.

"He became paranoid and I think they would've been a large part of that. They created the paranoia."

After recording her verdict, Miss Cheema said: "It's very tragic for a mother to find her son in the circumstances that you did.

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"I'm very sorry that's something you had to experience. It's clear to me from the evidence that it was Mr Westwood's intention to take his life.

"The only conclusion I can record is one of suicide."

Mrs Westwood was also critical of the treatment her son received, saying she repeatedly raised concerns about his welfare but these were not listened to.

She said the mental health system had failed Ashley, and asked: "Why didn't anybody do anything?"

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Mr Westwood - who was trained as a chef, hairdresser and chiropodist - spent time in hospital voluntarily in January. However, he told medical staff that he was not feeling suicidal and they had no powers to section him or force him to stay in the hospital.

After leaving hospital, he was due to receive care at home but rejected a number of opportunities.

In the weeks before his death he had come under the care of a new doctor, who said he was hopeful of making progress. Mr Westwood was due to meet up with the doctor the day he was found at his home.

Mrs Westwood said: "I can't understand why nobody listened to me.

"I said time and time again that this lad was a risk and he was going to do something, but all I was told is that 'this is the system'.

"You feel so desperate because you're a mother.

"His personality from January until he died was different.

"We're sitting here now and you think 'what's the point' because Ashley's not here any more."

Mrs Westwood described her son as 'lovely, his friends said he was always there for them'.

"He was helpful, a bundle of laughs and was bright and cheerful.

"Everybody misses him dreadfully."

Two hundred people attended his funeral earlier this year.

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