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Campaign launched to improve university mental health services after student death

Image of students walking down stairs
Loïc Fürhoff | Unsplash

Written by Susannah Hollywood

Charlie McLeod was 25 and in the second year of a Computer Science degree at Aberystwyth University when he experienced a mental health crisis.

In contact with the university’s well-being services throughout the year, he even admitted himself to A&E in an attempt to get the help he needed. During a university counselling session soon after, he reported feeling suicidal. Tragically, he was found dead in his student accommodation only days later.

Charlie’s mum, Emma Laney, feels that more should have been done to support Charlie at a

time when he was so vulnerable. She believes that closer monitoring should have been put in place after he reported that he felt suicidal and that his case should have been treated more seriously.

Although Charlie’s family had noticed changes in his behaviour and mood, they didn’t realise the extent to which he was in crisis. Emma wishes that the university had communicated more with the family to inform them about how Charlie was feeling. With the provision of better support, she feels that the outcome could possibly have been different.

In response to the tragedy, friends of Charlie have launched a campaign to improve the mental health services on offer at Aberystwyth university for fellow students.

‘Charlie Asked for Help’ campaigners are demanding improvements in several areas, including better communication, student involvement, checks on vulnerable individuals, provision of emergency contacts and clear guidance regarding responsibility for support workers.

They also want improved help for students both to register with a GP and to access mental health support services in times of need.

The campaign has heard from over 40 other Aberystwyth students who report that they were also not well supported by the university’s wellbeing services during periods of mental ill-health and psychological distress.

Leading the campaign is Charlie’s girlfriend, Romana Nemcova, supported by Charlie’s family. Outlining the events that led up to his death, Romana reports that Charlie didn’t feel well supported by the well-being services and didn’t feel he was getting the help he needed.

When Charlie informed the service that he felt suicidal and that he had created a suicide plan, he was directed to the Samaritans and to the mental health charity, Mind, instead of being given any immediate help.

Charlie didn’t attend a scheduled follow-up session with well-being services, but no action was taken to check on him. When no one had heard from him for a few days, university accommodation office workers went to investigate.

Sadly, they discovered Charlie’s body at his student accommodation, and he appeared to have taken his own life. His cause of death will be officially determined by an inquest at a later date.

An Aberystwyth University spokesperson responded to the situation to reassure that they take feedback from their students seriously and work to review and update their practices in line with best practice, always aiming to provide optimal support.

The Welsh Government has also laid out their plans to improve mental health services and support for students at universities.

Charlie’s parents have teamed up with other parents of students who have taken their own lives to push for further change.

These bereaved parents would like to see changes to the duty of care that universities hold to their students in this area. Proposed changes include better sharing of information with families and health professionals and better mental health support services.


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