Father critical of university’s failure to tell family of student’s suicide bid

The father of a student found hanged in her halls of residence said her family would have “made a difference” if the university had informed them she was struggling with her mental health.

University of Liverpool student Ceara Thacker (pictured) was admitted to hospital after taking an overdose about three months before her death on May 11 last year, an inquest at Liverpool’s Gerard Majella Courthouse heard on Monday.

But her family were not informed of the hospital admission and notes were not sent to her GP, the coroner’s court was told.

Miss Thacker’s father, Iain Thacker, said the 19-year-old, from Bradford, had mental health problems since the age of 13 but kept in regular contact with her family after moving to Liverpool to study philosophy in September 2017.

He said the family were not aware she had taken an overdose in February 2018 and believed she was continuing to take anti-depressant medication.

He said: “Ceara’s death was a horrible, terrible shock to us all.

“We had no idea that she was struggling so much, if we had known what was going on we would have made sure our daughter was properly supported.”

Mr Thacker, of Guiseley, Leeds, said the family could not understand why the university had not contacted them to inform them Miss Thacker was having problems.

He said: “Someone needed to recognise that they were dealing with a really vulnerable 19-year-old who was living away from home for the first time, who wasn’t thinking straight, who wasn’t coping and who needed her family to support her.

“If we had been told what was happening with Ceara we would have made a difference.”

The court heard staff at Miss Thacker’s university accommodation on Brownlow Hill ordered a taxi to take her to hospital on February 21 last year after being told she had taken an overdose.

Mental health nurse Lindsay Cleary told the court she assessed Miss Thacker at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and typed up notes advising she should talk to a GP about reviewing her medication and refer herself to other health services.

But she forgot to send the notes on to Miss Thacker’s GP.

She said: “I apologise for that, it’s not something I would usually do.”

The court heard Miss Thacker had also attended hospital in October 2017 reporting self-harming and suicidal thoughts and was advised to see her GP and other agencies but failed to do so.

In a statement, advice and guidance team leader at the university Gemma Paul said Miss Thacker had arranged a number of appointments to see her about mental health but one was cancelled due to a power cut and she failed to attend others.

The court heard on the morning of her death, Miss Thacker wrote on Twitter that she was “so upset” about the death of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison, who took his own life.

In a statement, her friend Aidan Flynn said Miss Thacker had stopped taking anti-depressant medication about three months before her death because she said it made her feel like a “robot”.

He said he had gone to her flat at about 11pm on May 11 after becoming concerned when she stopped responding to his messages.

When there was no answer at her door, he and her flatmate had contacted residential adviser Imogen Webb who gained entry to the room and called emergency services after discovering Miss Thacker.

Area coroner Anita Bhardwaj said three notes, one addressed to Mr Flynn, one to her boyfriend and another to “World” which contained a web link to a letter she had written, were discovered in her room.

The inquest, which is expected to last six days, was adjourned until Tuesday.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA Wire.