Statement following the inquest of Natasha Abrahart
Press release issued: 16 May 2019
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.
As has widely been acknowledged, mental health is one of the biggest public health issues affecting young people globally – not just those studying at University.
At the University of Bristol, we identified it as a key priority more than two years ago. We have introduced a whole-institution approach to mental health and wellbeing with additional investment in the support we provide our students in their accommodation, in academic schools and through central support services.
This has enabled us to provide more proactive support for student wellbeing, both for our students during their transition into University and to help create a sense of community and wellbeing during their time with us.
This approach is clearly reflected in our Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which was launched earlier this year.
We have also played a key role in the development of a UUK Suicide Safer Strategy for universities which is being adopted nationally to ensure measures are put in place to provide the best possible support and early intervention measures for students.
We continue to challenge ourselves to improve our processes, procedures and support on an ongoing basis.
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.
The steps we are taking are part of a journey that will evolve over time. Much has already changed in the past two years, but new activities and initiatives will emerge as we learn from our work here at Bristol, and as all parts of society understand more about these complex challenges.
At the conclusion of this inquest our thoughts remain with Natasha’s family and friends, and those affected by her death at the University.
Professor Sarah Purdy
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience