University failed to contact mother of struggling student ‘until after she’d taken her life’

5 June 2023, 19:10

Shelagh Fogarty speaks to a mother who lost her daughter to suicide whilst studying at university

By Anna Fox

A campaign for further support for university students, backed by this bereaved mother, will be debated in parliament on Monday afternoon.

Speaking on the second anniversary of the death of her daughter Phoebe, Hilary Grime shared her experience with Shelagh Fogarty, as she called for universities to have a legal duty of care toward students.

Detailing the months before Phoebe’s suicide, Ms Grime told Shelagh: “She reached out to about 12 different members of staff and asked for help.

“I had no idea, I knew she was really unhappy there but I had no idea of the severity”.

Continuing, Phoebe’s mother said: “Newcastle knew all of it and it was documented in their timeline and I didn’t find out until the inquest.

“I believe that lots of things could have been put in place to help Phoebe and it was desperately tragic”.

Telling Shelagh how she had “trusted” Newcastle to manage the situation, Ms Grimes added: “I believed them and they didn’t contact me until after Phoebe had taken her life and was in intensive care”.

Phoebe had struggled to cope with both lockdown - which saw her confined to her room - and her father Jeremy being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, during her time at Newcastle University.

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Ms Grime said her daughter asked for help and received counselling from the university - and confided in them she had the plan to kill herself.

Phoebe’s mother is part of a group of parents who are calling for universities to have a legal duty of care for their students.

The #ForThe100 campaign has hit 100,000 signatures, triggering the debate.

If enacted, the law would entail organisations providing educational and pastoral services to their students that would protect them from what is referred to in legal terms as "reasonably foreseeable harm" - a risk to their welfare that the university should have been aware of.

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