'Gina was always giving' - Family's tribute to church volunteer, 28

Gina Sales, 28, who died on December 17, 2019, was described by her father as "incredibly loving" and "very giving".

Gina Sales, 28, who died on December 17, 2019, was described by her father as "incredibly loving" and "very giving". - Credit: Steve Sales

A father has paid tribute to his church volunteer daughter after her death at the age of 28, saying she who would "light up a room with her smile".

Gina Sales was found dead on December, 17 2019 at her home on Gargle Hill while on home leave as a voluntary inpatient at Hellesdon Hospital.  An inquest this month recorded a verdict of suicide.

Her father Steve Sales has since paid tribute to his daughter, describing her as "incredibly loving" and "very giving".

He said: "People used to describe Gina's smile as lighting up a room. It just made people feel better.

Gina Sales, found her Christian faith in 2016 and attended and served in the kitchen at Soul Church in Norwich.

Gina Sales, found her Christian faith in 2016 and attended and served in the kitchen at Soul Church in Norwich. - Credit: Steve Sales

"Seeing her walk in and smiling made everyone happy.

"Gina was one of those people who would help anybody.

"She would often go into the city and hang around. If there was someone homeless, she would stop and talk to them. She'd want to know their story.

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"She always gave far more than she took. She was always giving, that's who she was, an incredibly loving person.

"She had a huge heart."

Younger sister Megan Sales, 26, said: "When I was growing up, I really looked up to her. She was like my idol.

"She was really funny to be around. She was hilarious, there'd be the random things she'd say, she always wanted to make people laugh.

"She was really misunderstood at times. She was really smart and ambitious, even with her health issues. She wanted to help people, she wanted to make the world a better place, but with her struggles, she couldn't."

The 28-year-old, who struggled with epilepsy, depression and borderline personality disorder, found her Christian faith in 2016 and attended and served in the kitchen at Soul Church in Norwich, which was said to be a "huge part of her life".

Mr Sales said Gina had ambitions and would talk about studying, adding that his daughter was "good at drawing and loved to sing and dance when she wasn't poorly".

Speaking about the impact Gina's death had on the family, he said: "She's deeply missed by us all, her brothers and sisters miss her everyday.

"You cannot allow your life to fall apart.

"It's horrific when someone takes their life but you have to carry on.

"I think about Gina every day."

He said Gina was often "dismayed at the world and how people treat each other" and tried to "do her part in spreading love".

An inquest into her death, which involved a jury, gave a conclusion of suicide on Friday, December 3.

It followed evidence heard about Gina's mental and physical health struggles and about concerns over the level of care the 28-year-old received from social services before her death, which included the length of time taken to provide personal assistant (PA) care hours that both Gina and her father had requested.

One company had a 'domiciliary' care package in place, which saw carers visit Gina three times a day from December 2018 to December 2019, before another firm replaced them as a temporary measure, while PA care was being sought.

The court also heard how Gina's mental health started to deteriorate from 2018 and was later admitted to Hellesdon Hospital, where she was a voluntary inpatient for five weeks.

The 28-year-old, who found the ward she was on "stressful" and did not want a long admission, was given a provisional discharge date of December 19, 2019 and unescorted home leave.

She was found dead on December 17 after taking her own life.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted a breach of duty in failing to consider the issue of Gina's home leave, saying there should have been a further review and risk assessment in relation to her unescorted leave and that there was no appropriate care plan in place at the time of her death.

But it argued it "could not be concluded that these admitted failures" contributed to Gina's death.

If you need help or support, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 both 24/7.

Alternatively download the Stay Alive app, which is backed by Suffolk User Forum, if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else.