Families should be informed if students struggle with mental health at university | Student health

Thank you for your article highlighting the challenges to mental health that many students may face and outlining potential self-help measures (Self-care to support: how to look after your mental health at university, 15 September). Sadly, it came a little too late for my son, who attempted suicide in June. He was supposedly at the end of his second year of a physics degree, but, unbeknown to me, he was withdrawn from the course last January for lack of attendance. He continued in his student digs, and in phone calls intimated to me that all was going more or less OK. He felt unable to open up to me, and his levels of desperation accumulated to breaking point.

I am immensely grateful to the police, who attended him very promptly, and the ambulance service and the NHS for subsequent care. I do worry about the news that the police may now not respond to mental health scenarios. He is now at home, and gently considering future options with family and community support.

In my search to understand, I can look to the fact that he completed his A-levels in the confusion of 2020, and also a past mental health episode in his early teens. He had been in contact with university support services through his first year. What I can’t understand is how the university had no policy to contact his next of kin on withdrawing him from the course. If I had known about this, I would have been able to support him six months earlier. Yes, students are young adults, but I feel there should be higher level of duty of care that necessarily involves next of kin, particularly as most students are away from their home support networks.

One can only hope that, with increasing awareness of these issues, similar future scenarios may be avoided.
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