Parents urge Westminster to give universities a 'duty of care' after daughter's suicide

Natasha Abrahart took her own life while a student at the University of Bristol Credit: Family photo

Parents are calling for universities to have a duty of care over their students, after a young woman her own life while suffering from a mental health condition.

Natasha Abrahart was in her second year of an undergraduate physics degree at the University of Bristol when she ended her life on the day she was due to give a presentation.

Her parents, Robert and Margaret Abrahart, visited No.10 Downing Street today (Tuesday 25 April) to hand over a petition signed by nearly 130,000 people.

The #ForThe100 campaign refers to the "100 students who take their own lives every year" and calls on the government to make universities responsible for their students' welfare.

Natasha had been suffering from severe social anxiety and after her death, Mr and Mrs Abrahart took legal action against the University of Bristol.

A judge ruled the university discriminated against Natasha by failing to accommodate her mental health disability. He ordered the university to pay damages of £50,000.

In a written judgment issued at Bristol County Court, His Honour Judge Alex Ralton found the university breached its duties to make reasonable adjustments to the way it assessed Natasha.

Robert and Margaret Abrahart Credit: ITV News

He also said it engaged in indirect disability discrimination against Natasha and treated Natasha unfavourably because of the consequences of her disability. 

He found these breaches led to her death, noting that “it was accepted by the medical experts that the primary stressor and cause of Natasha’s depressive illness was oral assessment”.

Natasha's parents were among those delivering a petition to "create statutory legal duty of care for students in higher education" to Downing Street today (Tuesday 25 April).

Mr Abrahart said: "We feel extremely angry. This should never have happened and we don't understand what went wrong."

His wife added: "We are thinking about the students who are still alive today, but might not be, next week or next year."

Natasha is not the only West Country student to take her own life while enrolled at university.

Lee Fryatt lost his son to suicide. Credit: ITV News

Harry Armstrong Evans, a University of Exeter student, died at his home in Launceston, Cornwall, in June 2021, after failing some of his exams during lockdown.

Daniel Fryatt was studying at Bath Spa University when he ended his life - devastating his dad Lee, a former police officer from Bournemouth.

He said: "I hope we can bring these issues to the attention of the government, so future students and their parents don't have to go through the loss we have."