Are we in a student suicide crisis? Numbers are rising and is anything being done about it?

University, the best years of our lives, right? We hear it everywhere that students have it easy. Apparently, we don’t have to worry about the real world and we all live comfortably on a bottomless maintenance loan. Our biggest problems are fresher’s flu, too many nights out (and their subsequent hangovers) and the challenge of finding the cheapest Slovakian pot noodles in the reduced aisle of Aldi. 

However, the reality of ‘Uni culture’ is very different to what those who have not attended and/or ex students from twenty years ago, seem to believe. Deadlines, money problems, isolation, loneliness, and a never-ending pressure to succeed and secure a bright future are the vicious cycle of worries which many of us have to carry. 

When I read that 27% of students suffer from at least one form of mental health issue I don’t think ‘oh that’s high’, I think ‘their underestimating.’  When I discussed the issue with Andrea Newton, who has a professional interest in the topic as a Consultant at the National Centre of Suicide Prevention Training UK, and a personal link through being a mother to a son at Durham, she agreed that university can be a very destabilising and uncertain time for young people. 

“Think about it – kids leave the education system where
everything is structured and supported, often living in a family home
with their community around them and people they have grown up with who
know them, care about them and check in on them. They leave that safe
and structured and known life and off they go to Uni …

They are expected to fend for themselves – from food to submitting work
on time – nobody checks in on them if they miss lectures or lock
themselves away in their rooms … they are thrust into a group of
“peers” who they neither know, nor have anything in common with, nor
even like …. my son’s first year at Durham was horrendous! stuck on a
corridor with 11 kids who he had NOTHING in common with except that
corridor living … forced to be with people who are not of your tribe!
Not from your community, not from your “standard of living”, not from
your background or experience – it is very lonely and can feel very
alone.

Under pressure to do well as EVERYONE is proud of their child at
University, there is a pressure to succeed, to do well, to not let us
down – manage your money, manage your health, manage your relationships,
manage your workload, manage your landlord who says you have to pay £36
for a lost key and you are skint ….

You feel vulnerable, alone, lost, bewildered, overwhelmed and THIS is
what you worked so hard for in your A levels? Pressure, stress, anxiety
and loneliness ….AND NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE and your parents are too far
away to notice, they hear from you in a text or a call and you tell them
you are fine ….

Let’s also remember that you are having to struggle with all these life
changes and emotions at a vulnerable age – hormones, self discovery,
questioning your own sexuality, finding your own self – no longer living
in the shadow of family and no longer confined by their expectations and
beliefs – who are you????”

Furthermore, Yvette Greenway, Joint CEO & Trustee of SOS Silence of Suicide, concurs with Andrea on the range of interlinking factors which impact students:

“We believe issues start at a much younger age, but tend to manifest at puberty and beyond.  Students we’ve spoken to at Universities have had to deal with issues such as family breakups, deaths and or suicides of family members, trauma, bullying, abuse, socially challenging environments etc (the list is endless) at a young age and they carry the burden of these experiences with them, having never had the chance to understand them or discuss them with anyone, thus creating chaos and overload in their brain.  When you add these stresses to the pressures of examinations and general expectation put upon them, some simply collapse under the weight of it all and see no way of coping.”

Tragically, as Yvette pointed out, the worst outcome of mental health issues appears to be a growing reaction amongst students. 

According to a BBC article by Sean Coughlan (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43739863) not only is the student suicide rate in the UK higher than among the rest of our age group, it is also on a substantial increase. He pointed to a study by Hong Kong based researchers, they subsequently presented their findings at the International Suicide Prevention Conference in New Zealand. Their results concluded that between 2007 and 2016, the suicide rate for students grew by 56%. Going from 6.6 to 10.3 per 100,000 of the demographic. This contrasts with the figures from 2001-2007 which saw a decline. Other data shows that there has also been a large rise across an even smaller time frame. The Office for National Statistics stated that 112 students took their lives in 2012, by 2016 it had reached 146. Although the ONS warns that “year-to-year differences could reflect change in the population of students across time as opposed to change in the risk of suicide” these figures cannot be ignored.

Ara Rahman, an MA student from the University of the Arts London, explained the increase may be a sign of the times:

“Think about it, because now it isn’t enough to get a good grade. You need work experience, a role in a society, tangible achievements to prove yourself to get a job after, industry contacts etc. Also, I think constantly being on and checking social media makes a lot of students feel inadequate. They are constantly comparing themselves to everyone else!”

I very much agree with his conclusion.

The figures show this is clearly a nationwide problem, on the other hand, it is clear that at some institutions the problem is more acute. For instance, Bristol University has witnessed 10 student suicides in the last 18 months, three of which occurred in the space of recent weeks.

In a statement regarding one of the deaths the university claimed that:

‘As a university we are taking every step we can, working with our students, staff, and health partners to ensure our community is as safe and supportive as we can possibly make it.’

And to their credit, recently there has been increased availability and access for students during exam season, from counselling hours increased by 1,800 hours, to new daily drop-in sessions with mental health charities. Moreover, they have created a ‘relaxing green space’ and colouring stations in their ASS Library. As well as their Vice-Chancellor, Hugh Brady, initiating ‘Time for Change’ last year. This aims to ensure that “everyone at the University of Bristol who may be facing mental health difficulties feels supported.”

And yet, although the university have just injected one million pounds into their welfare services, it can be argued this is quite a lacklustre consolation to students when you consider they also spent three hundred million on their new Templar Quarter campus which is part of the university’s expansion programme. In an article for The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/may/26/bristol-university-faces-growing-anger-after-student-suicides), Sally Weale spoke to Ed Southgate, a second-year English student. He has previously struggled with mental health issues and argued:

“The support available is good. The problem is there’s not enough of it. He (Hugh Brady) should make sure there are enough services for the people who are here before recruiting more students.” (this relates to the expansion plan)

Moreover, in an interview for Bristol university’s version of The Tab, two students pointed out:

“I literally wouldn’t know where to go if I was depressed. Like, I dunno… could call the Samaritans I guess? I don’t think the uni offer stuff for it do they?”- 1st year, Sociology

“I think that the main problem here that sets Bristol apart from other Universities is the lack of contact you have with members of staff with a pastoral role like your personal tutor. I’ve met mine once and I’ve been here nearly two years now. People often say that all they want is someone to talk to as a first step in helping their mental health but why would anyone want to speak to a member of staff they don’t even know? It’s relationships like these that need to be formed so that students know they have someone safe and responsible who knows them.”- 2nd Year, French and Spanish

And currently Bristol students can face a wait of up to six weeks when they apply for counselling. 

However, although it can be argued that more contact between tutor and students needs to occur and services need to be more widely advertised and funded, those providing the services, i.e university counsellors, are far from ambivalent to students who are struggling. Indeed, it is quite the opposite, Sally Weale pointed out that:

‘Staff, who are doing their best to support students, feel “besieged” and “hurt” by criticism of university services. Some members of the pastoral team are on antidepressants themselves and have been in touch with Samaritans for support. One senior member of the team described how when a troubled student disappears, staff are terrified of going into their room for fear of what they will find. “It’s very, very tense indeed,” he said. Vulnerable students in his care have his personal phone number; last weekend he was up at 3.30am with a student who was having a panic attack.’

Indeed, when she spoke to several students and parents, it was apparent that most believe the issues lie with those in high positions of the institution, not the counsellors on the frontline. They are the reason for the lack of funding and to those affected they appear to have an un-empathetic attitude.

She pointed to Ruth Day, a first-year Maths and Philosophy student, she came to university with a diagnosed mental health problem:

“She struggled during freshers’ week and took herself to hospital. A few weeks later, she took an overdose.”

Under the university’s fitness-to-study procedure, Day was deemed unfit to continue her studies. She was suspended and told to go home. “I was not allowed on university premises. I was a risk to myself and the university community.”

The university stresses that the fitness-to-study procedure is rarely used, only in the most extreme circumstances for the protection of vulnerable students. Day, who got four A* grades at A-level, said the process made her feel worse. “I felt I had just completely messed up my entire future and my education because I was too sick to study,” she said.

“When you are low and the university takes everything away from you, you feel lower than ever. I felt like they had seen student deaths happen before and they were scared I would be the next one. I felt they were worried about their reputation.”

Brady, who trained in medicine, disputes this and said the policy was only ever used in the interests of a student’s welfare. “The last thing on our minds would be institutional reputation,” he said.

Day is now back at university after appearing before a fitness-to study panel, which she found intimidating. “It made me feel like I had done something wrong, like I was in a disciplinary hearing.” Allowed to return, she felt on tenterhooks, terrified the university would suspend her again. “I felt I had to be the epitome of good health and good work ethic or I would be kicked out again.”’

Because of her experience Day was one of the first organisers of a march at the end of May, which saw between 400-500 students calling for reform in the university’s services.

The sad case of Ben Murray, 19, the most recent Bristol student to take his life, emphatically demonstrates that change needs to occur. Ben was in his first year studying English at Bristol University, his father, James Murray, described him as having a brilliant mind, and that he was kind, sensitive and was devoted to his friends and family. After doing well in his GCSEs, he intended to replicate his straight As in his A Levels, so that he could then study at Edinburgh like his brother and girlfriend. However, he was extremely affected by the death of grandparents leading up to his exams. Therefore, he fell just short of the needed three As. Hence, he went to Bristol via clearing.

His dad believes that this outcome had a huge impact on Ben, he explained that this “sense of not succeeding becomes a sense of failure. I think that’s what Ben was carrying with him going to university. To take your own life you have to be in extraordinary mental pain.” And yet, his family had no idea of the anguish Ben was experiencing. He met his dad for lunch on the morning of his suicide and James describes how “It was a lovely lunch. He started by saying he’d wished he’d been more open, which at the time seemed like he was opening up about his thoughts and feelings” and that there was “no sign at all – nothing at all” of something deeper. Unbeknownst to his family, Ben was supposed to be leaving Bristol in a few days due to a formal withdrawal process. He had fallen behind in his studies and had missed lectures and exams. 

This is the point where I start to question Bristol university’s ability and approach to monitoring student wellbeing. Ben had told the university he was suffering from anxiety and had been sent a link to support services. Therefore, when he began exhibiting clear signs of consistent struggling, such as not attending, the university should have investigated his case further, rather than kicking him to the proverbial curb. 

Furthermore, it would appear, his father agrees that more empathetic action should have occurred. He stated that:

“One of the aspects of Ben’s removal from university which we later discovered was the absence of face-to-face meetings…Part of the intervention has got to be face to face. Anyone working in a business or company that removed a member of staff by email or by letter without meeting them would have to look to their own job. These are human beings. They’ve spent £10,000 to be there and worked damned hard.”

This is not meant to be a smear campaign against Bristol University, they are simply the most obvious case study. Indeed, previously I investigated QM’s welfare services at the end of last year (http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2017/11/the-garden-of-live-flowers/) and discussed their exam season strategy last month (http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2018/05/the-sus-study-well-initiatives-genuine-support-or-not-addressing-the-real-issues/). I am sure once you have read these articles you will realise the issues raised by Bristol students and their parents seem very familiar with those at QM.  

Moreover, I have spoken to several students from universities across the country, and they described their experiences and where they think improvements are necessary. Once again, the same tune is being rung.

Rebecca Hackfath – Southampton Solent:

“So, I was diagnosed with anorexia when I was in my second year at uni but it wasn’t until I physically told any of my tutors were things done. I would say personally Southampton Solent did an amazing job in some areas. They had someone from their welfare team take me down to the GP surgery and stayed with me until the appointment was over. I would say that the GP experience wasn’t the best. When I called up about 2-3 weeks later asking if the referral had been sent and faxed off they said it hadn’t and considering I was at a low weight (at a bmi were hospitalisation would have been needed) plus even then I had to wait 4 weeks for an assessment from the specialist. The specialist team were amazing in keeping the uni updated with treatment when I had to take a year out and when I decided to stay in Southampton for treatment. But there was no criteria which I had to meet before I returned. Some unis I know if they only accept people who have anorexia at a bmi 17 whilst at Solent there wasn’t anything therefor I gained about 1 stone and they accepted me back no medical checks or anything. And I was still at a weight where a gp would have referred me for inpatient……”

Because of this I relapsed pretty quickly. I think if they have had clear guidelines for me I wouldn’t have relapsed or I wouldn’t have done so quickly. Also, they said I could return when I felt like doing so, and knowing I had anorexia which people often lie about how bad things are I would have obviously said things were better even though they weren’t. There should have been guidelines to be honest. The Southampton services (the eating disorder services) were amazing though.

I think from my own personal experience with anorexia I don’t think enough is being done from the uni. If they had weight and medical guidelines for people with anorexia which I still don’t think they have it would stop people coming back from treatment who may not be fully recovered having their life’s potentially at risk. Potentially when I came back to the uni the second time I could have died just because they took my word saying I was ok even though medically I wasn’t ok still.

I know there was a case at UEA similar (not exactly the same) to mine and she wasn’t so lucky. Which thinking about it that could have been me.

Melissa Nye – Canterbury Christ Church:

“I graduated in January this year. I struggled with anxiety and depression all through my teenage years and it got worse as I got older. When I was in sixth form, it really started to affect my education, but I really felt like my school was useless. I didn’t feel comfortable going to classes for 2 weeks after my grandad died and instead of helping me by talking to me or offering counselling, my teachers put me on record for having poor absence etc. I never even knew what mental health really was until I was able to receive help from my tutors at uni. When I got to uni, I was able to express what I felt to my personal tutor and he was amazing. He referred me directly to the well-being department of the university and he was able to sign a report that let me have negotiated longer periods of time to have my assignments in. I felt like I was able to contact him about these things without the pressure of having to get proof from a doctor or anything which was very helpful for those with anxiety.”

(subsequently)

“The process was that because he was my tutor, he could sign me off for this report that got me longer assignment extensions, but it would only last for a period of time, say one term. I had to wait a long time to get an appointment with the well-being department as they didn’t have the staff, but it was okay because I had that report in the meantime. After that initial meeting with Well-being I needed to get a doctor’s note to take my report to a learning plan which would allow me to negotiate with other lecturers about giving presentations if I didn’t feel comfortable or sitting an exam in a room on my own etc. When I got really bad (just over a year ago now) I went to the doctor and had meds prescribed for the first time and also a letter to the uni stating my mental health problems which I was able to give to them and they would sign my learning plan, so I didn’t have to submit a request for extension each time, I could just get one if I needed.”

“The report was so helpful. It releases a lot of the pressure you feel with having anxiety because I always feel so pushed to do something, but the report allowed me to just bit stress free more easily. I feel like it was a few months, but I really can’t remember. I told my tutor at the time about the long wait and he made sure that I knew I could always arrange to speak to him if I needed to or if I just wanted to drop him an email anytime I could. I had no “follow up” sessions as it was just like a meeting with Wellbeing. To arrange counselling I would have had to get my doctors note, plus try and get a disability allowance from student loans to pay for it.”

“(Is there counselling available) There was but it was a certified service that cost money I think. (when looked into I found the service was free if you registered at the University’s GP surgery) I don’t remember too well I think I had this meeting about 2 years ago now! And the wellbeing meeting was to find out what the next steps would be, if I wanted counselling, if I wanted to see a doctor, etc.”

Ara Rahman – University of the Arts London:

“I’ve found that academics have very little understanding of it and though they might be sympathetic, they aren’t trained to have conversations around mental health difficulties.

It took 3 months for the counselling service to offer me an appointment when I asked for one at the beginning of my Masters

By the time I was offered an appointment, I’d sort of given up hope with the service. I’ve had a bit of a setback at the moment, and managed to secure an appointment next week but yes it’s a maximum of 6. I also don’t think the frequency is guaranteed weekly, which perhaps isn’t the best for people trying to recover (he agreed that it is only by session 3/4 that headway starts to occur and then suddenly they are over).”

I know the services are under strain, but with courses increasingly becoming more stressful and more being expected of students. It is ever more important for students to have access to these services and for them to be quickly and readily available. 

I think there needs to be more investment in the counselling services, more counsellors available and more signposting to the services earlier on in people’s courses and also tutors should be trained on how to help with anxiety, particularly anxiety from course.

I think peer groups could help as some people might prefer that to a 1 to 1, but I think they’d have to remember that not all students would benefit from this approach, so it should be a service they offer, but not with the intention of reducing the number of people needing 1 to 1 support. And yes, universities should definitely link up with charities and particularly initiatives aimed at targeting mental health. Also for those businesses, schemes, initiatives and charities that prioritise creating awareness from the start – throughout my first year in undergrad, I didn’t know services were available. Mind you that was before mental health had entered the mainstream conversation, BUT I imagine a lot of first and second year UG students and international students throughout won’t know these services are available.

I also spoke to parents and organisations, who are both within and on the outside, about what reforms they think should occur to try and prevent further tragedies across the country. Unsurprisingly, many of the suggestions ring similar to that of students.

James Murray rightly stated that “we must do something in his (Ben’s) honour to learn from what has happened.”

He believes that data privacy rules need to be altered in order for “universities to communicate more openly” because although the university had “been very open” after Ben’s death, prior to it they had to follow strict data privacy rules which mean universities cannot pass on information to parents regarding their adult children. To James, “Data privacy that may cause the vulnerable to lose their lives makes no sense at all.” Yvette Greenwood from SOS agreed and explained how the altered rules could be carried out:

“Each student should have a mental health record upon which any concerns are logged.  These shouldn’t simply be filled in and stored, they should be actively monitored by a mental health team.

We do feel strongly that for older students over the age of 18, where behaviour and performance give cause for serious concern, that there should be a waiver of confidentiality and parents/partners should be approached.  Where even the slightest risk of suicide and/or psychological problems are suspected, then this needs to be managed by an informed team which may include family members.”

Granted since Ben’s suicide the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol has met with James and has said that Bristol are:

“Actively working with his, and other parents, as part of our plans to create a structure of preventative services and policies that avoids our students reaching crisis point…This includes implementing an ‘opt-in’ contract with our students which would enable contact with nominated next of kin if we had a major concern about their wellbeing…The new opt-in policy…means students will be asked each year (via registration) to give consent for the university to also be able to use the emergency contact details in situations which are not ‘life or death’ but where there are serious concerns about the student’s wellbeing.”

Additionally, Mr Murray Snr also believes changes has to be made in relation to student-tutor relations. He states that:

“Tutors are the front line in terms of dealing with students…They have the first early warning signs of something being wrong, so they need to be held accountable.” 

Indeed, I totally agree, tutors need to be trained in basic Mental Health First Aid in order to understand trigger signs. So that they can consistently support students and point them in the direction of services. Moreover, as current services are stretched, if this training occurs then whilst a student awaits proper treatment they can still turn to their tutors for useful advice. 

Hence, Andrea Newton postulated:

“EVERY educational establishment has to have someone qualified in suicide
prevention – from security personnel through to personal tutors – being
ALERT and aware of signs and symptoms is critical, no good realising
after the even that “he gave me all the signs” …

Luckily we have some Universities that are realising
their vulnerability and recently we have been involved in training staff
to help spot the symptoms, start the dialogue and be able to practice
suicide first aid competently.”

Overall Yvette Greenwood suggested a holistic and sustainable approach:

“In relation to younger people in particular, whatever stage of the educational framework they are in, there needs to be collective support and action mechanisms in place.  For example, if previously capable students begin missing lessons, dropping grades, being disruptive, etc, this should be flagged by the Tutor and passed onto a Wellbeing worker within the facility who should initially talk to the student in confidence.  All educational establishments should have signposting leaflets to services that students can access for advice and support if they need it and these should be issued to all students.  We don’t believe that one person should be responsible for spotting potential mental wellbeing problems – it’s unfair and unrealistic – there should be a  well structured and qualified chain of command that begins with the Class/Year lead tutor.

There should be regular group meetings where students are invited to talk about their feelings and thoughts; their challenges, their coping mechanisms or their fears of failing.

Each student should have a ‘buddy’ who could flag any concerns, ie substance abuse, depression, bullying, thoughts of suicide.”

And to achieve all of this:

“There needs to be funding – to protect the physical and mental health of students should be the No 1 priority of any educational establishment.  Therefore, funding must be found to build, manage and maintain a safeguarding structure that works.”

And, to some institutions credit, as Andrea Newton pointed out, some universities are taking a proactive approach and increasing their support. Indeed, it cannot be denied that Bristol has made some improvements. Some are even accepting help from charities and initiatives to widen support and access. 

When I spoke to Yvette Greenwood she explained about SOS does:

SOS Silence of Suicide was formed in 2015 and its core aim was, and remains, to bring people affected by suicide together and encourage open and honest dialogue on the subject of suicide and all related issues.  We attained charitable status in November last year.  Some of our meetings are public and we’ve had attendances varying from 10 to over 300 depending on venue size and location.  The Samaritans attend all of our meetings and support what we do.  We are unique – no one else brings the 3 areas of suicide together in one group space, so those thinking about suicide, those who have attempted it and those bereaved by it all talk together.  We aim to signpost people to each other at meetings so they expand their own support network whilst going through an experience that breeds isolation due to shame, silence and stigma attached to the issues.

We do not offer advice.  We do not seek to change peoples’ minds.  We simply offer them a safe space and non judgemental platform from which to speak.  For others, the benefits come from listening only.”

As part of their mission, they work with universities and apparently Huddersfield University and Oxford University have been particularly receptive:

“Huddersfield SOS was instigated by tutors and wholeheartedly endorsed and approved by senior level.  They are absolutely 100% behind the mental wellbeing of their students and this was reflected in a very healthy turn out.Some tutors and members of the health team there also attended and there is clear healthy respect and open culture in relation to mental health.

We’ve been to Oxford University 3 times now – the last one initiated by students in response to an earlier one which was arranged by a non student within the University structure.  Again, the support for students is immense and the encouragement they are given to explore ways of delivering mental health support to each other, either via internal or external influences, is fantastic.  It’s a subject that is given the importance it deserves.”

Nevertheless, Penny Ling, a solution focused hypnotherapist based in Oxford, argued that sometimes universities avoid help from external institutions and why they do so:

“I think they are overloaded, don’t have the right mix of services and have a negative attitude to outside intervention. I once approached the university student services to explain how my approach was helping their students only to be totally ignored. I get the impression that the attitude of the university is, if you can’t hack it you shouldn’t be there. I give students a discount because I was once a student in Oxford and I know how tough it can be, but wouldn’t mind being paid by a charity or the university to do what I do. In the majority of cases it works very well.

I get the impression they are severely understaffed. I think there could be an underlying pressure to keep quiet because with Oxford there is a pressure to look good. A low drop out rate sends you higher up the charts. If you look as if you might fail they automatically place you into a different system to retake the year. Any failure looks bad on them.”

Indeed, although Yvette described how some universities welcomed SOS, others were not so forthcoming:

“Some universities that go through the motions of expressing a keeness for us to attend but then don’t respond when we try and arrange it.

To date, there are 5 who fall into this category.

I’d be interested in knowing the reasons for their reluctance to engage with ‘outside’ assistance if possible.  We understand that this has to be a selective process which ensures the safety of students, but to have a blanket ‘NO’ is utterly ridiculous and unless robust systems are in place internally, is a path that is not going to help students.

So sad.

We honestly don’t feel it should be the hierarchy who make these decisions.  The students should be asked if they feel it might be helpful and if the answer’s yes, external help should be encouraged and allowed.”

Not to end on a sower note, but overall, and sadly, my optimism for real and consistent change for when students are their most vulnerable across the nation is limited. 

Have any of you heard of Averil Hart? Short answer, probably not. And that’s the worrying part.

Prior to attending the University of East Anglia in 2012, she had struggled with a long history of anorexia nervosa. In the 10 months leading up to her first semester she was an in-patient at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. Upon starting University was transferred to an out-patient eating disorder clinic and the university GP for ongoing support. And the medical report which detailed her condition after being discharged clearly stated that she was ‘vulnerable to subsequent relapse’, particularly as this new transition could trigger a lot of stress. However, she was not given a care coordinator by the clinic to monitor her for the first month and although she was meant to be seen by the GP at the surgery for UEA every week, it only happened three times and during her last appointment, 8th November, she was told that she did not need to come back for a month.

Just over a month later Averil was dead.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53b29059e4b0ecc7c3d0cfda/t/53c8f229e4b0640068f28b89/1405678122137/?format=1500w

(sourced: http://www.averilhart.com/negligence-at-ueamc/)

According to a report by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who investigated her death (the report I’ll add was only completed at the end of last year), she was let down ‘by every single NHS organisation’, as detailed in Fig.1, and that her ‘deterioration and death were avoidable.’ It argued that along with inadequate coordination and planning, all of the institutions failed to respond to her dad’s growing concern in a helpful and transparent way.

Her dad, Nic Hart explained:

“It was easy to see that Averil started to lose weight virtually from the day she left the inpatient unit… Everyone could see that she was unwell, but when we called for help, as a number of us did, no help was forthcoming…I went to see her in late November and was incredibly emotionally because I realised straight away how ill she was. She could hardly walk; she couldn’t climb the stairs to her university flat – she had to sit every few steps.”

Like all of the organisations which failed Averil, the University of East Anglia just gave its sincere condolences and said it would carry out the report’s recommendations.

This article started with me looking into James’ Murray’s father calling for data protection laws to be changed, but as you can see, I very quickly fell deep into the rabbit hole. 

Throughout however, the biggest question on my lips has been the same, why is this student suicide crisis being discussed only in several articles, which only touch the surface on this wide issue? Is it because universities’ are concerned their reputations will be damaged if they admit they are experiencing a problem, is it that because the stigma of mental health is still lurking in the shadows, as a nation we are uncomfortable with admitting that our next generation are struggling? 

Either way, this situation cannot go on…. 

We must stop just talking about change and start enacting it.

Lives literally depend on it.

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