On Friday May 20th, a verdict was finally reached for the Natasha Abrahart case, the trial of which took place in March of this year. Senior Judge Alex Ralton, found Bristol University guilty of ‘multiple breaches’ of its legal duties and found guilty of discrimination over Natasha’s Abraharts social anxiety disorder which led to her suicide in 2018. Bristol University owes the Abrahart family £50,000 in damages. Natasha is one of the 12 students to have taken their lives at the Uni since October 2016.
Natasha Abrahart, 20, from Nottinghamshire was in her second year of studying physics at Bristol University. She was told she would have to stand in a lecture of 329 students and do an oral presentation. Her body was found on April 30th 2018, the day of her oral presentation.
Natasha’s parents, Margaret, 60 and Robert Abrahart, 65, gave a statement following the trial's verdict on Friday. Robert said: ‘Natasha was wonderful. She was kind, helpful, extremely bright, diligent, hard-working, she always gave everything her best… She only had one Achilles' heel, this was her social anxiety. She just found it so difficult when she was put in situations where she had to give some sort of oral presentation.’ Natasha had made a previous suicide attempt in the winter term of 2017.
Before her death, Natasha thought she was getting better. Robert stated: ‘It turned out, when we went through the evidence that all her friends had provided, she wasn't really improving - she was just getting better at not showing it. She had coping strategies and when she finally got to her second year in Bristol, the coping strategies didn't work.’
In an inquest made into Natasha’s death in May 2019, the Universities mental health services had neglected her, but the coroner could not testify how true this was as it was outside the scope’s inquest.
Bristol University also released a statement on Friday following the verdict: ‘We believe staff in the School of Physics worked incredibly hard and diligently to support Natasha during her time with us, … she was receiving specialist mental health support from the NHS.’ Bristol University is rumoured to be looking to appeal the verdict.
However, Margret Abrahart, a retired psychologist, disagrees and says they need to address the issue with their support system and the university's attitude to those with mental health conditions. The Abrahart parents hope that the verdict of this trial and the fact it is the first time parents have sued a University in such a manner acts as a ‘wake up call’ for institutes across the country.
Image Credit: The Guardian
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