'Multiple Failures' In Treatment Of Bristol Student, 20, Before She Died, Coroner Hears

The university has seen 12 suspected student suicides since 2016.
Natasha Abrahart, 20, was studying physics at Bristol University when she died last April.
Natasha Abrahart, 20, was studying physics at Bristol University when she died last April.
Robert and Margaret Abrahart/Irwin Mitchell

There were a number of missed opportunities in the care of a Bristol University student who died suddenly, a coroner has heard.

An independent expert found mental health support by the NHS’s Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust failed to adequately plan timings for Natasha Abrahart’s care or manage the risk of her self harming, Bristol coroner’s court was told.

Dr Laurence Mynors-Wallis said in a report into the 20-year-old’s care that the failures had a “causal” link to her death last April.

Tom Stoate, a barrister representing Natasha’s family, told coroner Maria Voisin that the report showed both inadequacy in the student’s care and a link to her death.

But a lawyer representing the trust, Will Pickles, said that expert found only “individual shortcomings” rather than systemic issues at the trust.

The pre-inquest session also heard more details on a university assessment which was due to take place on the day Natasha died, the prospect of which her family believe may have contributed to her mental ill health.

The assessment, known as a laboratory conference, would have required the physics student to present and defend scientific findings in front of 40 peers, the court heard.

The looming presentation saw Natasha share her concerns to a university staff member and it was said that she was falsely reassured changes could be made so she would not have to speak.

Natasha had previously sought adjustments to similar assessments after they triggered her anxiety.

A full inquest into Natasha’s death will take place next month. Her parents have launched a crowdfunding page to fund their legal fight for answers.

A spokesperson for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Natasha’s family at this difficult time. We are unable to comment any further until the conclusion of the full inquest.”

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: help@themix.org.uk
  • 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.

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