Bristol university suicides spark mental health alerts

image source, Family photograph
image captionBen Murray, a 19-year-old English student at the University of Bristol, died in May

A university is to tell parents if their child is struggling with mental health problems.

Freshers at the University of Bristol are being asked to give consent for university staff to share major concerns with their guardians.

The university introduced the opt-in scheme after 11 students took their own lives there since 2016.

James Murray, whose son Ben died in May, welcomed the scheme and wants all universities to do the same.

Mr Murray has campaigned for better data sharing by universities to prevent further student deaths.

The most up-to-date statistics from Universities UK show 146 students killed themselves in 2016.

image captionThe university's plans include implementing an "opt-in" which would "enable contact with nominated next of kin" over wellbeing concerns

Mr Murray said: "Ben was a very sensitive boy and he would like to see other people spared this pain.

"I am sure that he would be happy that I'm behind it but I think this is really Ben's campaign."

The number of first year students arriving at university with a mental health condition is now five times the number it was 10 years ago, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Bristol now has three new student centres open 24 hours a day and more than 50 new staff looking out for those who are struggling.

The university's vice-chancellor, Prof Hugh Brady, said: "To have a student death from any cause is a real tragedy, to have a number in quick succession really tears at the very heart of our institution and our mantra now is mental health is everybody's business at our university."

English student Ben was in his first year and had been falling behind in his studies and missing lectures.

image source, Family photograph
image captionThe teenager was described as having a "brilliant mind" with "everything in front of him"

His parents, who met with Ben on the day of his death, said they had no idea he was struggling.

Mr Murray said: "We had a very nice lunch, he didn't eat that much but I told him that I loved him, kissed him and said goodbye and that was the last I saw of him."

If you are affected by these issues please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website.

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