I had the call every parent dreads - student's dad

Melina Image copyright Dean Taylor
Image caption Melina was a student at the University of Leeds

The father of a university student who took her own life has called for young people to be more open if they're struggling with their mental health.

"Ten days ago I had the call every parent dreads, the one from the police.

"My beautiful daughter, a student at Leeds Uni, had been found in her flat in Leeds by her flatmates.

"She had taken her own life."

Dean Taylor tweeted these words to share the devastating loss of his daughter, Melina.

He told the BBC he wants to encourage students who are struggling to be more open with friends and family.

In a series of posts earlier this week, he described how Melina had become increasingly anxious and isolated.

"We would arrange to meet and she wouldn't turn up, ignored my phone calls and messages.

"She became very good at convincing us she was fine.

"It is clear now, she was just telling me, showing me, what I wanted to hear. Underneath she was in turmoil. It was the same with the rest of the family, and all her friends. No-one was aware of how bad the situation had deteriorated, how low she was feeling."

Dean Taylor and Melina
Dean Taylor
Having all this information, it just multiplies the grief - knowing there were so many opportunities to save her
Dean Taylor (left) with Melina

When we spoke, Dean told me how immensely proud he'd been of the "bright star" of the family.

Melina was studying chemistry at the University of Leeds, and had hoped to go on to study for a masters. Her dad says the 20-year-old could appear shy but was "loving and compassionate, the best of friends".

Father and daughter had shared a passion for music and would swap stories of gigs or bands they'd come across.

Beneath that connection was also a shared sadness.

Melina was only nine when her mum took her own life, but she had always insisted the support of her family was enough for her. At university, Melina was juggling many of the pressures of student life, described by Dean in his posts.

Melina was worrying about managing on a tight student budget, and about how to pay off her loans after graduation. She was retaking a couple of parts of her course to improve her grades, and the anxiety had inflamed her psoriasis, a skin condition.

"In the end, she had convinced herself she had become too much of a burden and an inconvenience to us all. She couldn't have been more wrong. All the issues she was dealing with could have been dealt with, if only she had discussed them with us, or a professional."

Image copyright Dean Taylor
Image caption Melina's father Dean wants young people to talk to one another about their mental health

On 27 January, Dean received a call from the police following the discovery of Melina's body in her room. All her stuff had been packed into boxes, and he thinks Melina was planning to drop out of university.

Since then, he has been trying to piece together what was happening in his daughter's life, discovering that she had attempted suicide more than a year before.

Melina had pleaded with her friends to keep it quiet and they'd done as she asked.

Later she had told her dad that she'd been prescribed anti-depressants and they were helping her sleep better. More recently, Melina had insisted everything was fine, while also frequently cancelling plans to meet.

Dean posted: "Having all this information, it just multiplies the grief.

"Knowing there were so many opportunities to save her. When she was at her absolute lowest, when in her room, even though she was surrounded by friends and family, despite the love she had, she still felt utterly alone."

The suicide prevention charity Papyrus has been working with students and universities to improve support.

Kelly Thorpe, head of helpline services says: "Conversations save lives."

"If you see changes in behaviour that cause concern and your gut instinct is that not everything is OK, have a chat but be open and honest with the language like, 'Sometimes people experience thoughts about suicide. Is that the case for you?'"

She says after that, it's about working out where to go next for further support, whether it be a personal tutor, a family member, a counsellor or a helpline.

A spokesperson from the University of Leeds said: "We were very saddened by the news of Melina's death and our thoughts are with her family and friends. We are continuing to support those affected by this tragic event."

For Dean Taylor there is just one message he wants to get across to students and their families.

"Talk to people, reach out. Keep in touch with your children and keep them close."

Since Melina's funeral, he has himself asked for counselling.

As he posted: "I am the absolute worst for storing it all up and saying nothing. Time to get it out. It's the very least I can do."

Information and support: If you or someone you know needs support for issues about emotional distress, these organisations may be able to help.

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