Jane* says the university "failed and humiliated" her and spoke out to criticise the lack of support and insensitivity she suffered through a period of depression which she says eventually led to her expulsion in 2012.
The former student highlighted King's inability to support her pastorally, and felt let down by her personal tutor and university counsellors - the support systems in place for incidents of this type.
Having being severely depressed prior to and after a serious operation, Jane failed an assignment by a single mark. Her place on her course was terminated and appeals denied after the written evidence of her illness was deemed "inappropriate". The university claimed the letters she provided from her GP and counsellor were insufficient in explaining the failure of the assignment as they covered the wrong dates.
Jane visited a university counsellor but says they did not provide any help, simply telling her she came from a "dysfunctional family". Her personal tutor, another supposed point of support for students pastorally, was similarly unhelpful.
The former student told The Huffington Post UK she had finally found the confidence to speak out about her experience, saying KCL failed to give her the "key ingredient to success - support".
"In 2012, I underwent a very serious operation which left me distraught and depressed," she said. "Unaware as to the extent of my mental illness, I fell behind with one assignment and my place on the course was terminated. It was too late to prove my mental health issues once I had been kicked to the curb; they requested evidence to 'prove' that I had had depression, they said that the evidence that I had provided was 'not enough'.
"I produced letters from my counsellor, letters from the GP, proof of my mental instability, but they were not enough - they had to cover an exact period, during which I was too sick to leave my bedroom. I did not have anybody who could see that I needed to see a medical professional, and was too unwell to recognise how depressed I was."
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Jane continued: "During the appeals process I received no support whatsoever, apart from two days of sick leave, one of the days being when the operation actually took place. I was advised by the individual presiding over my appeal that the serious operation shouldn't have affected my studies. After visiting my personal tutor, instead of the support I was assured of at induction, I was told that 'you are hanging on by a thread and it's about to snap'. When I brought this up in the appeals process, King's wouldn't comment and told me that I should have read the course handbook instead.
"Apparently I didn't have a right to a personal tutor who would help me with pastoral issues. When I was finally referred to a psychiatrist at King's (by a student, no less), she made me feel insignificant and ashamed of myself for having mental health issues and a 'dysfunctional family'."
Jane says had she had the full pastoral support promised at induction when she asked for it, she would have been "more than capable of graduating".
"I have nothing now because King's excluded me when I was suffering with depression and the people paid to help me let me fall," she added. "The appeals panel dismissed me as a lost cause, and asked for 'evidence' that I simply did not have, from a period in my life in which leaving my bedroom was a form of torture. King's has not only failed me as an institution, it has humiliated me."
One final year King's College London student said in regards to the incident, "In light of the Atos disaster, where people have to do ridiculous things to 'prove' they're not fit for work, the fact that this is happening to students ('customers') in universities is massive news."
A spokesperson for King's College London told HuffPost UK:
“King’s College London takes the mental health of its students extremely seriously and is committed to supporting students with health issues, including depression, through its counselling services.
"The College has procedures which allow students to notify the College of mitigating circumstances such as mental health issues before an examination or an assessment deadline, and after an examination or an assessment deadline in circumstances where the student’s illness prevented them from submitting the request beforehand. To ensure fairness towards all students, requests from students for an extension to a deadline or to be withdrawn from an examination must be accompanied by third party evidence supporting the student’s claim of mitigating circumstances. All requests are considered sympathetically on their individual merits.
"It would be difficult for further investigation in to this specific case to take place without additional information. The College would encourage the person in question to come forward so that the issues which they have raised can be considered and addressed.”
*Jane's name has been changed to protect her anonymity.
Useful websites and helplines:
Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
Students Against Depression, a website by students, for students.
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
Student Minds To join the community or launch a student group contact the charity on firstname.lastname@example.org