Parents of Students Who Die by Suicide Call for Legal Duty of Care to be Imposed on Universities | UK News

In the months leading up to Phoebe Grime’s death, her mother Hilary warned her university that she was struggling.

Phoebe found confinement isolating, and when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, it was another blow.

Ms Grime says Phoebe’s tearful phone calls home raised red flags, but she was left in the dark about the seriousness of her daughter’s situation.

“She had a suicide plan,” Ms Grime told Sky News, “in October 2020, about six or seven months before she died, and she told the university about her suicide plan, and they didn’t tell me. haven’t contacted, so I did I don’t know.”

“I think the hardest part is that 20 hours before Phoebe took her own life, she saw the Newcastle University counselor,” Ms Grime added. “And Phoebe in their notes, Newcastle’s own notes, Phoebe said she wished the pain would stop and put her hand on her heart.”

The notes show that in this final session, conducted virtually, the counselor asked Phoebe more probing questions, but she denied that she felt suicidal. Her mother said her refusal should not have been taken literally.

Phoebe Grime and her mother Hilary
Phoebe’s mother, Hilary, is campaigning to impose greater duty of care on universities

“Had they phoned me, like they said they would, I would have been in that car for Newcastle, and I think Phoebe would be here today with me. It’s massive, brutal trauma. “said Ms. Grime.

Newcastle University, where 20-year-old Phoebe studied philosophy, said in a statement: “Phoebe is remembered as a talented and popular student. During her 18 months here, our well-being team being dedicated provided her with ongoing support and guidance.

“The coroner in Phoebe’s inquest could not identify any point where things could have been done differently by the university or by her privy counsel.

“Nevertheless, we continually seek to improve support services and work with key partners to help any student struggling with their Mental Health.”

But Phoebe’s mother and other parents of children who committed suicide as they Higher Education call for a statutory and legal duty of care for students, similar to the duty of care owed by employers to employees.

Oskar Carrick
Oskar Carrick took his own life while a student at Sheffield Hallam University

It would be more comprehensive than the general duty of care, with safeguards enshrined in law.

The parents, who have formed a group called The Lived Experience for Action Right Now (LEARN) Network, have launched a petition which has garnered enough signatures to spark a debate in parliament, with Higher Education Minister Robert Halfon saying he had asked all the universities to register. on the mental health charter agenda by September 2024.

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But while he said he was not closing the door on future legislation, he refrained from committing to new laws.

For Maxine Carrick, that’s not enough. She only discovered after her son Oskar’s suicide that he had already attempted suicide.

And although the inquest into his death heard he didn’t want his family to know, a month after the attempt Oskar gave consent to share information with his mother and GP, but it didn’t. was not applied retrospectively.

“So they didn’t have to tell us about the suicide attempt, they just had to tell us about anything after that,” she told Sky News, but added that she felt the family should have been told that Oskar, who was 20, was approaching his death.

Oskar Carrick
Oskar’s mother thinks the university should have informed her that there were concerns about her son

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: “The University community has been saddened by the loss of Oskar, and we would again like to offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

“The inquest into Oskar’s tragic death made no reference to any wrongdoing on the part of the university. The coroner also said she was satisfied that the university was entering into national consent discussions. sector-wide.

“We take supporting the mental health and well-being of our students very seriously. In recent years we have significantly increased our resources to provide access to a wide range of support services, while every student has access to dedicated advisors.”

Universities UK, a body representing 140 universities across the country, told Sky News they released new guidelines last year to help universities take a more proactive approach involving trusted contacts when there is serious concerns about a student.

But bereaved parents say only legal change will make a real difference.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call the Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK. In the United States, call your local Samaritans branch or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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