A student’s “desperate struggle” with her mental health led to a “failure of coordination” between her university, GP, and local NHS trust, a review hearing into her sudden death has heard.
Ceara Thacker, 19, died in May, three months after she told a receptionist in her halls of residence that she had attempted to take her own life, Liverpool Coroner’s Court was told on Thursday.
The University of Liverpool student was said to have been visited multiple times by a postgraduate scholar working part-time as a residential advisor.
But apart from checks by the postgrad student, it was not clear “what, if anything was done” to help Ceara, her family’s lawyer, Tom Stoate, said.
Questions are likely to be raised about the training given to Liverpool’s residential advisors, who are often older students who pay reduced rent in return for several hours work a week, as well as support staff such as receptionists.
Ceara, who was in her first year of a Philosophy degree, was found dead in her room three months after she sought help from staff after an initial attempt on her life.
She was also in the care of a local GP and the Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust at the time of her death.
Stoate told the court there were concerns about a lack of communication and coordination between the three organisations involved.
HuffPost UK reported earlier this year that an internal review conducted by the university found professional staff at the institution’s mental health advice service did not immediately respond to Ceara’s request for help because staff had walked out on strike.
The coroner for Liverpool and the Wirral, Anita Bhardwaj, declined a request for a jury to be empaneled during the full inquest in Ceara’s death, due to take place next year.
Bhardwaj also said Ceara’s treatment did not, on the evidence currently available, breach Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, which protects the right to life. Article 2 is often cited in cases where a person dies while in the state’s care.
But she said both these judgments could change should further evidence come to light.
A further pre-inquest hearing is scheduled for February. No date is set for the full inquest.
During Thursday’s hearing, Bhardwaj also warned the media against reporting what was said in court. “It would be inappropriate to print evidential matters before they have been tested,” she said during a tense pause in proceedings.
Bhardwaj’s comments came after previous media interest in the case, including reports by HuffPost UK and the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
She said her decision to deny a jury was in no way influenced by the previous media coverage, but she nonetheless said: “You can’t influence me.”
Merseycare NHS Trust said it would not comment until Ceara’s inquest concludes.
The University of Liverpool said: “Our thoughts remain with Ceara’s family and fellow students at this extremely difficult time. We are fully committed to working with the Coroner on this investigation and to implementing any lessons learned. We will not be commenting further until the inquest has been concluded.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.