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Cardiff Univerity criticised for allegedly having 'severely short-staffed counselling service' after LGBT student's death

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Cardiff  University has been criticised during an inquest for allegedly having a “severely short-staffed” counselling service and poor support for students with mental health issues, Wales Online reports.  

Two members of an LGBT group took their own lives in 2018, one of the students was Jack Liam May, aged 20, who died on 25 October.

Photo: University of Cardiff by Jeremy Segrott CC BY 2.0

At his inquest on Wednesday 27 February, Mr May's friend Tomos Evans talked about the lack of help given by Cardiff University’s counselling and wellbeing services.

He said: "It's severely short-staffed and they don't have enough resources to accommodate students who have long-term mental health needs.

"Some students have had to wait four hours to see someone, which is far too long."

Mr Evans said he received his "main support" following Mr May’s death from the Students' Union.

During the inquest at Pontypridd Coroners' Court, Assistant coroner Rachel Knight asked Mr Evans about the amount of contact time students have with their personal tutors. He said: "It's a minimum number of times. I think it's twice a term.”

Ms Knight also asked Mr Evans if he thought students identifying as LGBT were at higher risk of suffering from a mental illness.

"I definitely think LGBT students are at a much higher risk of suffering depression and having mental health concerns, which is a by-product of having to come out and having to go through school being bullied," he said.

photo of yellow, orange, and blue blanket

Photo: LGBT+ flag by Peter Hershey via Unsplash.com

After hearing evidence Ms Knight recorded a conclusion of suicide and in doing so she said: "Jack was clearly a loved son and friend to many.

"It sounds like he was a lot of fun and was at the beginning of his adult life when he was tragically killed."

Another Cardiff student also took their own life last year, Jacob Whelan, 20, was found dead in his bedroom not long after starting a gender transition. At his inquest Mr Whelan's friends noted his frustration at the wait time for appointments.

The year before Mr Whelan's death, in 2017, transgender student Marty Draganova took his own life following a caffeine overdose.

Responding to Mr May's inquest and death, Cardiff University spokesman told Wales Online: “We were deeply saddened by this tragic event and our immediate thoughts and sympathies are with Jack’s family and friends at this extremely difficult and emotionally challenging time.

“The wellbeing of our students is an absolute priority for the university and we do everything we can to ensure that we provide the best support for everyone.

“We offer a wide range of professional and confidential support through our counselling and wellbeing services to help students with emotional or psychological difficulties that they may be experiencing. This includes wellbeing and counselling appointments, interactive workshops, courses and groups. The university also maintains strong relationships with external third sector organisations and local NHS provision.

“All our students are allocated a personal tutor at the beginning of their programme and advised to meet regularly to discuss any difficulties that they may be experiencing. Personal tutors are able to listen, provide academic advice, and direct students to appropriate support and wellbeing services.

“Last summer Student Minds UK launched a research report which provided evidence to universities on the things they could do to improve support for LGBT+ students. Since that time we have worked in partnership with our LGBT+ students to use that evidence to change what we do. We have an active LGBT+ Society and the LGBT+ Association who work with the Students’ Union to improve the university experience of LGBT+ students.

“Cardiff University is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and was recently ranked 11th in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2019 – the highest ranked university in the top 100.

“We are not complacent and continue to look at new ways in which we can improve our services and provide the best support for all our students.”




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