Polegate MP Maria Caulfield has raised the tragic suicide of her constituent Justin Bartholomew and the dangers of high energy drinks with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.
Ms Caulfield met late last year with the family of Justin Bartholomew, who believe that his mental health concerns were exacerbated by the quantity of highly concentrated energy drinks that he was consuming every day – 15 cans.
His dad Keiron said, “He was drinking 15 cans a day and that was just the ones we could see him drinking. I said: “You’ve got to wean yourself off these and he just said: “Dad, I can’t stop. I’ve tried.””
Having listened to the family’s concerns Ms Caulfield questioned health ministers and has now raised concerns directly with Prime Minister Theresa May at PMQs.
She told the House, “Justin Bartholomew was just 25 when he committed suicide late last year. His family are convinced his intake of high energy drinks, over 15 cans a day, increased his anxiety and contributed to his death.”
Mr Bartholomew, 64, went on, “My son was drinking energy drinks which accelerated his depression. It’s a double-edged sword - energy drinks are bad for you and if you have depression, it’s a lethal combination.”
He described Justin as a ‘sensitive lad’ who was devastated after splitting up from his wife after just three months. He tried to take his life three times. It was about the time of his first anniversary when he was hospitalised and his energy drink consumption ‘rocketed.’
Responding to Mrs Caulfield, the PM said, “I know the thoughts and sympathy of the whole House will be with his the family and friends. We introduced the soft drinks industry levy, we recognise there are issues around drinks that are high in sugar and we know energy drinks high in sugar can damage children’s health.
“We support schools and parents to make healthier choices and identify these through clearer labelling.”
Sales of energy drinks in the UK have soared by 185 per cent in nine years. They have previously been linked to headaches, heart palpitations and sleep problems. Research suggests they are linked to increased rate of alcohol and drug taking and smoking.
Justin’s dad was about to marry his partner in Scotland when he heard about his son’s death.
He said, “He had his whole life in front of him. Justin was screaming for help and we couldn’t help him.”