A message to our students on mental health…

November 4, 2022

Trigger warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts

Before reading this note to students, I would like to take a moment to ensure you are aware that the content covers some difficult conversations and topics surrounding mental health and suicide. Please consider this before continuing to read, and if you would like to talk to anyone about these topics then we have a number of signposting options at the bottom of this.

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As an Officer team we wanted to speak to you about the very sad case of a student suicide which occurred last year and has recently received media attention. We are very aware that as a student community it is likely conversations will have been had on this topic, and it is likely that family and friends outside of the University have wanted to talk about this too.

The verdict of the Harry Armstrong Evans case was released on Monday 31 October, and this has of course put a spotlight on mental health support at the University of Exeter.

Since hearing of the passing of Harry our thoughts and condolences have been with Harry’s friends, family and all of those who knew him at University. We want to reassure you that at this time, and all others, as your Officers we are part of your community, we have felt the impact of this, and we are here to support you.

Mental health, wellbeing and support is one of our collective priorities for the year. We all know the importance of these provisions and have championed it for the past few years. We have been working in partnership with the University to improve and develop the Wellbeing Services at Exeter. We know that this does not change the past, but it is important for us to reaffirm that this area of work is, and always has been, a priority. We are working to help make changes to provisions to ensure they meet the needs of our community.

Taking this into account, we have already had a number of in-depth conversations with the University, where we have all agreed on the importance of taking the recommendations from the Coroner’s Report with utmost seriousness. We will, where necessary, continue to challenge the University when we feel that is needed, keeping your interests at our heart, and ensuring the University’s systems work for you.

It is critical that right now we emphasise that the University’s Wellbeing Services are equipped and ready to support you. There is no doubt that developments and improvements can be made to the service provision, but this team is ready to support students with a breadth of measures. If you feel you need support, it is never too early or too late to reach out, whether that is to Wellbeing Services, a friend, or someone else. With that same principle, if you see someone you think may be struggling think about how you can have a conversation with them about that.

As your Officers we commit to continuing to have open and honest conversations about student mental health and suicide prevention, working with the University to ensure Wellbeing Services meet student needs, and finally, being open to any conversations or suggestions from you. It won’t be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. There have already been improvements in this space, and together we can do more.

On a closing note, we want to reiterate our sympathies and solidarity with everyone who has been impacted by this case, as a team, we too have been deeply saddened by this. We are here to support you, as our many others within our community.

Signposting to services

We encourage you to reach out for support if you are struggling with your mental health or know a friend who may need extra help- whether it’s being impacted by studies, finances or personal reasons:

-         University of Exeter Wellbeing Services and in particular urgent support

-         Exeter Students’ Guild Advice Service including resources as part of our I am (not) fine campaign

-         YoungMinds| Mental Health Charity For Children And Young People | YoungMinds

-         Samaritans

-         Mind