Coroner is investigating deaths of students, all believed to be first years, but university says they are not thought to be suspicious
A coroner is investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden deaths of three students, all believed to be first years, at one of Britain’s top universities within weeks of the new academic year beginning.
Though the causes of the deaths will have to be established by the Avon coroner, online tribute and fundraising pages for two of the three suggested they had taken their own lives.
The University of Bristol said the deaths were not being treated as suspicious and were not connected but it would carry out its own investigations to find out if lessons could be learned.
According to a survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) published last year, eight out of 10 students said they had experienced mental health issues in the previous year and a third said they had had suicidal thoughts.
One of the students who died has been named as Miranda Williams, 19, from Chichester, who was just three weeks into her first term.
An online fundraising page set up to raise money for the charity Papyrus, which works to prevent young people from killing themselves, said Miranda had died three days after she “decided to take her own life”.
A message on the page said: “Miranda suffered with depression and anxiety a lot of her teenage life … We blame the stigma of her illness for her death. It restricted the help she got, the support and the understanding.”
She was studying philosophy and was a member of the Jazz Funk Soul Bristolsociety, according to an email to students from the students’ union announcing her death.
It said support was available for students and added: “Shock, grief and understanding what has happened will affect us all differently.
“It is important to let this happen in its own time. Talk to each other, to your school, to your residence pastoral team and to your friends.”
The second first year student who died was the law student Kim Long, 18, from Penzance in Cornwall.
On an online tribute page his family wrote: “We have lost our dearest, loveliest and only son. Kim took his own life last week. He was considerate to the end by leaving us a loving letter which helps us to respect and accept his choice. May he rest in peace.”
A university spokesperson said: “Sadly we can confirm there have been three unrelated student deaths this term. These events are always extremely upsetting and our thoughts are with the students’ families and friends.
“Our student welfare services are offering support to anyone affected. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the cause of these deaths until the coroner has undertaken independent inquests, although we understand that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding them.
“The University of Bristol has around 22,000 students. We will, of course, be investigating if there is anything we need to do to learn from these sad events but we have no reason to believe they represent a wider issue.”
Bristol University students’ union’s student living officer, Stephen LeFanu, said the organisation was working hard to improve pastoral care.
He said: “Starting university can be extremely difficult. Some new students are without their support networks from home for the first time, and will be experiencing new academic and social pressures.
“Rising fees mean that students are also increasingly under a great deal of financial pressure, with many taking on part-time work alongside their studies. Many people will also experience complex mental health difficulties, regardless of their environment.”
In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.