Ex-Wales hockey player took her own life after suffering from chronic anxiety, inquest finds
The family of a former Wales international hockey player who took her own life after suffering with chronic anxiety have said she was the “gentlest person” and “beautiful inside and out”.
Nia Fowler, 39, died at her home in Ynystawe, South Wales, on May 25, 2021, a week after she visited her GP with concerns about her mental health.
Her body was discovered by her mother in an upstairs bathroom just after midday when she failed to turn up for lunch at her parents home.
An inquest into her death, held at Swansea Guildhall on Thursday, heard how the mother-of-two had been in a “toxic” relationship with the father of her children.
Ms Fowler’s mother, Jo Fowler, told the hearing: “I’ve never known a mother who loved their children like Nia did.”
But she said her daughter’s mental health had deteriorated following the breakdown of the relationship.
The court heard how Ms Fowler (pictured) felt her parenting was “frequently and relentlessly attacked” by her former partner, and that communication with him would trigger episodes of extreme anxiety.
“She lost a lot of self-esteem and felt her role as the children’s mother was being eroded,” Mrs Fowler said.
She said her daughter lived in “constant fear” of developing cancer or falling ill, a form of anxiety that worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Fowler, a centre forward who played number nine, started out at Swansea Hockey Club and went on to represent Wales in all age categories, earning her first senior cap in 2003.
Described as “immensely skilful”, her family said: “She had the confidence on the pitch that we wanted her to have in life.”
A former pupil of Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera and Neath Port Talbot College, she attended University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (Uwic) and gained a first in sports science before becoming a qualified acupuncturist.
However in recent years she had put her career on hold, and in the final weeks of her life had quit a job as a receptionist due to feeling “overwhelmed”.
During a visit to her doctor’s surgery on May 18, she was offered medication but said she wanted to try herbal remedies first and was already practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Mrs Fowler, who accompanied her daughter to the appointment, said: “The GP was lovely. However, leading up to that, Nia had been dealt with over the phone by a number of doctors. There was no continuity. When she reacted to her medication she wasn’t given a replacement, and she wasn’t seen.”
She added: “There’s no way my daughter would have chosen to leave her children, therefore her state of mind was that she was not fully cognisant of what she was doing.”
The inquest heard how her teammates had described her as a “shining light” and “role model”.
Sian Fowler, Ms Fowler’s sister, said: “She was the gentlest person. All she wanted was her kids.”
Cricket broadcaster Edward Bevan, the father of one of Ms Fowler’s best friends Bethan and who was present at the hearing, said he had “never seen Nia without a smile”.
“She was the most wonderful, loving girl you could hope to meet,” he said.
A post-mortem examination found Ms Fowler had not been under the influence of drugs or alcohol when she died.
Acting senior coroner Colin Phillips concluded Ms Fowler’s death was suicide by hanging.
A crowdfunding page set up to help support her two children has raised almost £11,000.
In a statement following her death, Wales Hockey said: “Those who had the honour of knowing Nia would agree she was an incredibly gifted player, a kind and caring person, a dedicated mother and a good friend to many. Nia’s smile and infectious laugh lit up the room. She will be greatly missed.”
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA.