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File picture: Pexels

Heartbroken mom wants universities to tell parents about students' mental issues

By ALEX WARD Time of article published Oct 10, 2019

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Durham - A heartbroken mother whose "beautiful and funny" student daughter killed herself wants parents to be told if their children suffer with anxiety at university.

Alexandra Wilshaw, 21, was in her third year at Durham University when she hanged herself in her room.

The mathematics undergraduate was said to have been happy and was in a relationship when she died in March last year.

But Wilshaw, who was a member of the university’s cheerleading team, had been attending counselling sessions before her death. An inquest heard that she had previously tried to kill herself, although her family had no idea about the extent of her troubles. Her mother Carol Fowkes, 51, has now spoken about her grief and called for parents to be informed if their children suffer mental health issues while studying.

She said: "Alexandra was a bubbly and outgoing girl. She was actually quite loud and funny. And she was beautiful. She did some tutoring to GCSE students, she was in a cheerleading squad. We never knew there was anything wrong.

"She used to be perfectly fine when we spoke to her over Facetime – I’d ask her if anything was wrong and she’d tell me that she was OK – she’d seem happy. She had struggled with anxiety and was on antidepressants but you would never have thought that she would have done anything like that."

Fowkes is raising awareness so other parents don’t suffer a similar tragedy. She said: "The parents need to know. I’ve spoken to other people from different universities and that’s how they feel. I just wish I’d known how Alexandra was feeling."

The student was found by her boyfriend in her room.

Fowkes received the news at 4am when her ex-husband and the police arrived at her home in Bourne, Lincolnshire. The parents went to Durham Hospital, where Alexandra was in intensive care, but she was brain dead and died on March 18 last year.

An inquest at Durham County Hall last year concluded her death was suicide. County Durham assistant coroner Dr Leslie Hamilton said: "She’d engaged with the counselling service and there were expressions of potential harm to herself, but people seemed reassured by the support mechanisms in place and she was on treatment."

A report from the university’s student support services said Wilshaw had been advised by friends to see a GP months before her death. She had also been prescribed medication.

Miss Fowkes has since set up Alexandra’s Awareness Campaign, which aims to raise funds for suicide prevention measures.

Daily Mail

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