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'Our daughter came to Bristol seeking a better, brighter future - instead, we lost her forever'

Natasha's parents described their daughter as Credit: Family photo

An inquest has ruled that a series of failures by mental health services contributed to the suicide of a vulnerable student at the University of Bristol.

Natasha Abrahart, originally from Nottingham, was in her second year when she took her own life on 30 April 2018.

Coroner Maria Voisin recorded a narrative conclusion, saying her death was contributed to by "gross failures" by the Avon and Wiltshire Partnership.

Our daughter came to Bristol seeking a better, brighter future. Instead, we lost her forever.

We will never stop working to ensure that other students don’t endure the suffering she did.

We never want any other families to live with the pain we and our friends will face for the rest of our lives.

– Robert and Margaret Abrahart, Natasha’s parents
The 20-year-old came to Bristol to seek a Credit: Family photo

She is the ninth student to have died by suicide in the past three years.

Natasha, who was a second-year physics student, was due to give an assessed presentation in front of staff and students on the day she died.

Academic staff said they knew that she “suffered from anxiety and panic attacks” in relation to oral assessments.

However, a senior lecture told the inquest that “no changes were made” to her assessment on 30 April.

An apparent lack of information sharing, coordination and compliance with the University’s own policies on supporting disabled students left Natasha exposed to stresses which could and have should have been removed.

At the same time we know that Natasha was being badly let down by specialist mental health services who failed to put in place a timely and adequate plan to mitigate Natasha’s risk of suicide.

– Gus Silverman, lawyer, Irwin Mitchell
Her family say they never want any others to have to live with the pain they are. Credit: Family photo

Avon and Wiltshire Partnership have apologised to Natasha's family and said they would take on board the coroner's recommendations.

The University of Bristol has released a statement:

Natasha’s death is a tragedy that has affected everyone at the University but in particular the staff and students who knew and worked with her in the School of Physics. Staff in the School, along with colleagues from Student Services, tried very hard to help Natasha, both with her ongoing studies and with her mental health and wellbeing needs. This was highlighted and acknowledged during the inquest, with the coroner finding no fault with the University. We are very sad that these efforts could not help prevent her tragic death.

– Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience

The university continued: “Like all universities, schools and colleges, we are deeply concerned by the increase of mental health issues amongst our young people nationally. Complex mental health challenges cannot be addressed by universities alone, and we cannot be expected to replace the NHS.

"We are, however, fully committed to working with our partners in the NHS, charities and across the HE sector in a collaborative effort to ensure we are providing the best possible support to our students."