Student told uni he was suicidal before death

time:2023-06-04 14:57:13 source:Al Jazeera

The mum of a student who killed himself days after sharing his suicidal thoughts with his university said it "could have been different" if his family were told he was struggling

Charlie McLeod, 25, was found dead in his student accommodation at Aberystwyth University on 3 February.

His mother, Emma Laney, does not know if enough was done when he told the university's wellbeing services.

The university said it was in touch with Charlie "throughout" the year.

Ms Laney said more needed to be done at universities to make sure people get the help they need while having a mental health crisis.

"If they'd just contacted home, it could have been a different outcome. We'll never know, sadly," she added.

Emma said she would remember her son, from Winchester in Hampshire, as "an extremely intelligent young man" who was an "amazing big brother" to Max and Angel.

After a stint in China as an English teacher, Charlie applied to Aberystwyth to study computer science.

"He was always saying that he was doing well on the course. He found it very interesting. He made some new friends. It seemed a positive time for him," said Emma.

But in the summer of 2022, she said she noticed a difference - he was not communicating as often and kept telling his family he was busy.

"Christmas time he seemed extremely down. He didn't want to join in with anything. Everything seemed an effort. He just wasn't himself."

Emma was told Charlie admitted himself to A&E as a result of his mental health on 25 January.

The following day he went to a scheduled counselling session with the university's wellbeing service and said he was feeling suicidal.

This was his last engagement with the service and he died days later.

An inquest into his death is due to be held in the autumn.

A university spokesman said: "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Charlie's friends and family at such an extremely difficult time.

"While we cannot go into individual circumstances, our student wellbeing team were in contact with Charlie throughout the 22-23 academic year, with the aim of providing direct support as well as linking to statutory NHS health and mental health services where appropriate."

Emma said she had "an overwhelming sense that something wasn't right" so asked Charlie's dad to contact the university, which is when it was discovered that Charlie was dead.

She said: "I feel a lot more should have been done. A lot more communication, sharing of information. I mean if they'd just contacted home or even a professional mental health then, you know, it could have been a different outcome."

Romana Nemcová, 22, was Charlie's girlfriend and is now one of the organisers of the Charlie Asked For Help campaign, which was set up by fellow students to demand the university changes how it handles cases like this.

She said: "It's really important because Charlie was an incredible person. I want to make a change for future students so, future students will not suffer how he suffered.

"He could still be here if he'd had help and that's the most difficult part for me."

The Charlie Asked For Help campaigners say students need clearer communication with wellbeing services, as well as help to register with a GP practice when they start university.

Rachael Eagles, chief executive of Area 43, a mental health charity based in Ceredigion, said there were not enough services to meet demand.

"We need to decide what the gold standard of mental health services and care looks like and then ensure access to that wherever you are," she said.

This "gold standard" is something the National Union of Students Wales wants the Welsh government to implement at all universities in to ensure a "consistent model" of support.

The Welsh government said: "We have established an expert group to provide advice on how to improve access to mental health services and ensure universities across Wales have consistent and accessible support for students."

Aberystwyth University said it was "continuously" reviewing its processes and updating practices to ensure it was giving students "the best support possible".

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, help and support can be found at BBC Action Line.

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