Student, 19, took his own life after being kicked out of college

‘Struggling’ fresher, 19, leapt to his death from bridge after being thrown off course at University of Bristol where 12 students killed themselves in three years, inquest hears

  • Benjamin Murray, 19, died in May 2018 while studying at the University of Bristol
  • Some 12 students at the university have taken their own lives in last three years 
  • University chose to ‘dismiss’ him after lack of attendance at lectures and exam
  • But parents James and Janet Murray say they felt the university ‘failed’ their son 

Benjamin Murray, 19, died in May 2018 while studying at the University of Bristol

A coroner has called for universities to destigmatise mental health after a ‘struggling’ student threatened with dismissal committed suicide.

Fresher Benjamin Murray, 19, killed himself while studying at the University of Bristol – where 12 students have taken their own life in the last three years.

The English undergraduate had been told the uni had chosen to ‘dismiss’ him from his course following his lack of attendance at lectures and at an exam.

But an inquest into his death this week heard that Ben had told the university three times that he was struggling to settle in and to ‘connect’.

And an education director from the uni said Ben could have been reinstated onto his course if more had been done to encourage him to take a meeting with staff.

His parents, James and Janet Murray, from Fulham, London, have said the university ‘failed’ their son and are calling for lessons to be learned.

Senior coroner Maria Voisin has today called for moves to destigmatise mental health issues and encouraging more disclosure on UCAS application forms.

Concluding the inquest, the coroner recorded that Ben died from multiple injuries, including head and lung injuries and a pelvic fracture, as a result of suicide.

She said: ‘It is clear from the act that lead to Ben’s death that he intended to take his life.

‘There were a number of issues in his personal life that support this evidence. His place had been withdrawn and he owed a significant debt for his accommodation.

‘I will be writing to Bristol University, the Department of Education, the Minister of Suicide Prevention, and UCAS. 

The undergraduate had been told the University of Bristol (above) had chosen to ‘dismiss’ him

‘Bristol University have clearly made many fundamental changes to their practices since Ben’s death, and they should be praised for that.

‘But there needs to be a move towards destigmatising mental health.

‘Currently, only 37 per cent of student disclose their mental health on their UCAS form or to their uni.

‘More students need to be assured that disclosing this will not affect their place.

‘Universities also do not currently carry out an investigation or root aspect report after such an incident.

‘It is my duty to recommend a written action plan with an opportunity to review on what happened, what was done well, and areas for concern, if there are any.’

Ben died in 2018 after jumping off a bridge in Bristol.

He had been sent a letter and an email threatening him with dismissal for his poor attendance.

The university vice-chancellor has published a Suicides Safer University Guide for the prevention, intervention, and postvention of students at risk of suicide.

Dad James said after the hearing: ‘A truly compassionate community is trained to spot the signs, encourage disclosure and intervene early to give hope to those in distress.

‘Bristol are on that path. The true test of safety will come with time.

‘If Bristol and other universities commit to continuous improvement they will surely have the best chance of becoming suicide-safer.’ 

How 12 Bristol students took their own lives in the last three years

MIRANDA WILLIAMS (University of Bristol) – October 13, 2016

The 19-year-old philosophy student from Chichester had struggled with anxiety and depression, and took her own life with a drug overdose. She was only in her first term at the university, and was praised by her mother as ‘an amazing young woman’ with a ‘wonderful circle of friends’. A coroner concluded her death was suicide. 

DANIEL GREEN (University of Bristol) – October 21, 2016

The 18-year-old history fresher, who lost his mother aged two to cancer, was found hanging in his room at university. An inquest was told he had started talking about starting counselling services, but had been in ‘good spirits’ just two days before his death. In a narrative verdict the coroner concluded he had taken his own life.

KIM LONG (University of Bristol) – November 10, 2016

The 18-year-old law student was just starting his first term at the university but was found dead in his halls of residence after leaving a note for his parents. Mr Long was described as a ‘highly intelligent’ young man with ‘a sense of humour’ by his parents, and had not shown signs of depression. The coroner concluded suicide. 

LARA NOSIRU (University of Bristol) – January 30, 2017

The 23-year-old student from Essex took a large number of sleeping tablets and some LSD before jumping off Clifton Suspension Bridge in the city. She had suffered from depression for several years and tried to kill herself on several previous occasions. The coroner said she took her own life.

ELSA SCABURRI (University of Bristol) – March 20, 2017

The 21-year-old student had been suffering with depression when she was found hanged after leaving a note on her bed. The modern languages student was said to have gone ‘downhill’ quickly during a year abroad in Italy and came back to Britain to be with her mother. The coroner concluded her death was suicide. 

RAVEN HUNT (University of West England) – April 13, 2017

The 21-year-old sociology student, who had a history of anxiety, hanged herself in woods near the city. Her family later spoke of their devastation. Her mother Emmy Hunt, who has three other children, said she is now on anti-depressants and gets panic attacks following the death.

SAM SYMONDS (University of West England) – May 1, 2017

The 19-year-old student, who was described as ‘so lovely’, was found dead after his friends raised the alarm when he had not been seen. His girlfriend and flatmate came home from work to find police at the flat, who said he had killed himself. A post mortem found he died from hanging. In a narrative verdict the coroner concluded he took his own life.

JAMES THOMSON (University of Bristol) – October 25, 2017

The 20-year-old maths student had been battling depression for about 18 months before his body was found by a friend. During an inquest, his parents questioned why the university did not do more to get in touch with them when they found he was suffering from depression. The coroner concluded his death was suicide.

JUSTIN CHENG (University of Bristol) – January 12, 2018

The law student from Canada, is in the third year of his degree, is believed by police to have taken his own life. The coroner concluded his death was suicide.

ALEX ELSMORE (University of Bristol) – April 21, 2018

The 23-year-old electrical and engineering student took his own life. The undergraduate, whose father is Guy, 52, the Archdeacon of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford, was originally from Liverpool and had four siblings. The coroner concluded his death was suicide.

NATASHA ABRAHART (University of Bristol) – April 30, 2018

Second-year physics student Natasha Abrahart was only 20 when she was found dead in her flat having taken her own life. In February last year she wrote to tutors to tell them she had had suicidal thoughts, and later that month tried to kill herself. 

BEN MURRAY (University of Bristol) – May 5, 2018

First-year student Ben Murray took his own life last May. His father has since appealed for universities to do more to share details about at-risk students. 

For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details. 

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