Waltham charity worker suffered with body dysmorphia, inquest hears

A charity worker from Waltham Forest took his own life last year after suffering for years with body dysmorphia, an inquest heard.

Conrad Colson, 34, died in Waltham Forest on March 2, 2022, having been “plagued by body image problems” since he was at school.

Mr Colson was a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis charity ShiftMS and also an “extraordinarily gifted” music producer, according to his father Richard.

However, his anxiety over his appearance became even more pronounced while working remotely during lockdown, as he found it “very difficult” looking at his own image on computer screens during online meetings.

At an inquest at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court on Tuesday May 9, Richard said compassion for others was his son’s “driving force”, adding: “He was always generous to others but lacked the ability to see his own situation in its correct perspective much of the time.

“In his last year, he spent thousands of pounds at a number of skin clinics in Harley Street, where he tried to find a treatment to bring him relief regarding his own facial skin problems. These were in fact very slight but he was beyond any persuasion of this.”

In 2020 and 2021, Conrad repeatedly visited the Tatiana Clinic for treatment for acne scars on his chin, which consultant surgeon Massimiliano Cariati described as “mild”.

At the inquest, Dr Cariati said all patients are observed for signs of body dysmorphic disorder and, where necessary, refused treatment and referred to their GP or specialist mental health support.

However, he said Conrad seemed “just like any other patient” and was “not agitated [or] overly anxious”.

He added that he was not aware of Conrad being unhappy about treatment until early 2022, shortly before his death, when Conrad emailed saying he felt “pretty upset” about the treatment and asked for a further appointment to “correct” it.

Dr Cariati did not respond directly when coroner Nadia Persaud asked whether patients with signs of BDD should be referred for an “independent view” before receiving more treatment.

He said: “I don’t think any system is fallible in informing potential issues – what in the system can be improved is not something I can analyse by myself.

“In private health care, there are a lot of patients who self-refer to investigate issues that have been significant health problems.”

The inquest will continue for three days with evidence from staff at mental health trusts North East London Foundation Trust and South London and Maudsley, where Mr Colson received treatment.

Click here for information and support about body dysmorphic disorder.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are available – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter