'My son's death was avoidable' says Kendal mum campaigning on student suicide

  • A mother who lost her son to suicide is campaigning for universities to legally have a duty of care for students

A mother whose son took his own life while studying at university is urging the government to re-evaluate a review into student suicides.

Maxine Carrick, from Kendal, lost her 21-year-old son Oskar to suicide while he was studying at Sheffield Hallam University in 2021.

Despite attempting to take his life just eight weeks earlier, Maxine says she was not alerted by the university or local health officials about concerns over her son's mental health.

She is now campaigning with a group of parents - who have also lost their children - for universities to have a legal duty of care for their students.

The Department for Education has laid out its plans for a national review into student suicides - but Maxine and her fellow campaigners say it doesn't go far enough.

Speaking to ITV Border, Maxine said: "It felt like everything we had pushed for was being pushed aside. I suddenly just felt they are happy to let this happen. And to let this happen again.

"This existence that we are now living is awful. My dreams and aspirations died on the 19th of June 2021 with Oskar.

"My life is now looking after the rest of my family and making sure they're okay. And making sure this does not happen to anyone else because it's awful.

"It's awful and it is so avoidable. Oskar's death was avoidable.

"I can't tell him, I can't sort it but if I can stop one more person going through this I will continue."

Their research estimates that about 100 students in the UK take their own lives every year.

In response, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is vital that higher education institutions learn lessons when a student takes their own life.

"That is why we have worked with bereaved families to develop this review and are commissioning an independent organisation to conduct it and share these lessons across the sector, to help prevent future tragedies.

“We are also calling on all universities to sign up to the Mental Health Charter Programme to ensure that they are taking a whole-university approach to mental health and have set up the Higher Education Mental Health Implementation Taskforce to make a plan for driving further improvements in student mental health support.”

And this is why Maxine has campaigned alongside other bereaved parents for universities to have a legal duty of care towards their students.

Oskar's university, Sheffield Hallam, has said that the inquest into his death did not reference any failings on their part.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: "The University community was saddened by the loss of Oskar, and we would like to again offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

"We take supporting our students’ mental health and wellbeing extremely seriously. In recent years we have significantly increased resources to provide access to a wide range of support services, whilst every student has access to dedicated advisors.

"The University also works closely with the Students’ Union, the city council and local health authorities to help keep our communities safe."

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