Parents sue Bristol University over daughter's suicide

  • Natasha's parents speak to ITV News

The parents of a student who took her own life say they hope their legal action against Bristol University will help other students in future.

Natasha Abrahart, who was originally from Nottinghamshire, was in her second year of a physics degree at the University of Bristol when she took her own life in April 2018. She was 20 years old.

Since childhood, Natasha had suffered from severe social anxiety and her parents say the university did not do enough to accommodate her needs.

Bob and Maggie Abrahart are suing Bristol University on the grounds of negligence and disability discrimination.

They argue the university's requirement for regular oral assessments as part of the second-year physics course put Natasha at a significant disadvantage academically.

They say she was unable to cope with the assessments, failed to attend them, and that it caused her severe stress.

On the day she died, Natasha had been due to give a presentation to 50 students in a large lecture theatre.

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Natasha's father Bob told ITV News: "I can't imagine her actually being able to stand in front of a group of 50 students who she didn't know very well in an enormous lecture theatre and become the focus of everyone's attention."

In its defence, Bristol University says its staff had tried hard for months to help Natasha - on one occasion physically taking to her to an emergency GP appointment as her mental health deteriorated.

The university says it offered her alternative ways of doing the presentation which would not involve any public speaking.

Natasha Abrahart Credit: Family photo

Natasha was under the care of the NHS Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership when she died.

At an inquest, the coroner found neglect by AWMHP was partly to blame for her death but she did not criticise Bristol University.

Natasha's parents say Bristol University's attempts at helping Natasha were too little, too late, and that its teaching methods were the reason for Natasha's worsening mental health. They want the university to review its approach to students with similar mental health conditions.

"It's not just about saving the lives of people who are suicidal", says Natasha's mother, Maggie. "Whatever we learn from this that helps people's mental health will also help people further down the chain."

The hearing at Bristol County Court has now ended and a judge will decide whether there was anything more the university should have done in Natasha's case.