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Inquest of auto executive James Davis told mental health stigma must end

Cox Automotive commercial vehicle customer insight director James Davis

Calls for “unashamed and informed conversations” to cut the stigma of mental illness have followed the tragic suicide of automotive industry executive James Davis.

At a Birmingham inquest held this week into 47-year-old Davis’s death in July, a statement from his step-mother urged for “those of us he left behind to contribute towards much-needed change” in how mental illness can still be perceived.

“In his honour we could all pay heed to some of his final thoughts…be kind to yourself, be good to one another, take better care of mother earth, and be the best parent you can be to your children.”

She said Davis’s heart-breaking story had a moral, that true understanding of mental illness is still way beyond the average person’s grasp.

“No-one is to blame for the loss of James’s life but those of us he left behind could perhaps contribute towards much-needed change. If everyone could just acknowledge that mental illness is a disease just as real as osteoporosis or diabetes.

“We can help change the way people interpret mental illness by having more unashamed and informed conversations. We can share the responsibility for lessening the stigma of mental illness; perhaps we can be some help to someone in need. There is so much available these days, so many resources to reach out to, and incredibly effective medication, so spread the word.”

During the inquest assistant coroner Ian Dreelan read out statements of evidence, including a note posted by Davis to a property firm he rented a garage from, which revealed he planned to take his own life.

Dreelan read out that Davis had suffered three bereavements in recent years, had high blood pressure and had been prescribed anti-depressants in 2019, although hadn't ordered a repeat prescription since mid-2020.

After the property firm raised the alarm on July 12, Davis, the commercial vehicles insight director at Cox Automotive, was discovered dead in his car inside the rented garage in Birmingham.

The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide.

Davis’s step-mother added at the inquest: “The fact that James was so loved by so many people, so esteemed in his profession, so full of kindness and living such a seemingly fulfilling life, was obviously not enough for him to continue in this world.”

In July tributes from motor industry friends and colleagues poured in after Davis' death was known.

At the time Cox Automotive said he would be "greatly missed by family, friends, team members and customers" and its international president Martin Forbes paid his own personal tribute: "His energy, his enthusiasm, his excitement, his passion, his smile, and how he shared the love...JD - always loved, never forgotten, forever missed.”

If you'd like urgent support for your mental health, here are the details of some of the organisations which can help:

Registration opens for Automotive Management Live 2021 car retail expo

Automotive Management Live 2021 - Shaping the future of motor retail

The sector’s premier insight and networking event returns to the NEC, in Birmingham, on November 11.

Book your place early to ensure they are ready to embrace a packed schedule of seminars and interactive stands.

Devonshire Motors owner Nathan Tomlinson said of the event: "Being able to get back to networking and learning in person is something that I'm really looking forward to,” he said, adding: “One thing that really caught my eye was the message about ‘learning new skills to balance your workload’.

“Personally, I think that's going to be a really big deal as we continually put more and more pressure on our teams to handle workflow, often digital, that we just don't have the structure, tools or skills to manage well.”

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