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Investigation launched after five suicides in one year at York University

‘She was not given enough support after the first attempt,’ says mother of suicide victim

Harriet Agerholm
Sunday 25 September 2016 14:30 BST
The university has announced it will invest £500,000 in mental health care
The university has announced it will invest £500,000 in mental health care (Getty)

An investigation has been launched after up to five students at The University of York killed themselves in one year.

The number is thought to be the highest ever seen in a single year at a British university.

City of York council has said it will investigate the deaths after Saher Ahmad, 20, Daniel Pinfold, 23, Christopher Walsh, 21, and Azusa Nose, 23, all took their own lives while studying at the university. An inquest into a fifth suspected suicide is pending.

Ms Ahmad, a third-year archaeology student from London, had received treatment for depression for several years prior to her death. One month before she killed herself she attempted suicide and was taken to hospital.

Friends described Ms Ahmad as a kind person who had a bright future. Her mother, Dr Fauzia Zaheer, said said she felt her daughter had been let down.

Ms Ahmad had only been given one counselling session following her suicide attempt and her family was never told about the incident.

“I feel she was not given enough support after the first attempt,” Ms Zaheer told The Sunday Times. “When someone tries a suicide it is a cry for help.”

The university, which is not itself under investigation, told The Independent: "Promoting positive mental health is an important responsibility for universities, but also society as a whole. Over the last six months, the University of York has undertaken a thorough review of mental health support in light of increased demand from students and some disruption to mental health provision in the city following the closure of Bootham Park hospital in late 2015.

"As a result of that review the University made a decision in August this year to invest a further £500,000 in mental health care provision over the next three years to further enhance student support services and strengthen its community partnerships in promoting positive mental well-being."

City of York council said: “We are working collaboratively with partners across the city including the university, the NHS and Public Health England to investigate these suicides."

The investigation comes after it emerged that demand for counselling at universities had soared by 50 per cent over the last five years.

Student news site The Tab recently rated York as the worst university for mental health care.

A report by the university in May revealed that half of all ambulances called out to the University of York were for incidents of self-harm or suicide attempts. The proportion of emergency calls of this kind had been growing year on year.

The rising costs of higher education and a more difficult labour market post-graduation have both been cited as to blame for the rise in depression.

A recent nationwide study, conducted by mental health charity Student Minds UK, found that 93 per cent of staff and students agreed with the statement: “The process of referring students to specialist services is too slow and difficult.”

On Thursday, the University of York announced it will invest £500,000 in mental health care, which will be used to expand the counselling services.

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