Family of Bristol University student who took his own life talk pleased with suicide prevention scheme

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‘Ben’s legacy is one of kindness’

A university suicide prevention scheme set up by family of a struggling teen who took his own life has now helped hundreds of students. Fresher Benjamin Murray, 19, killed himself while studying at the University of Bristol in 2018.

The English undergraduate had been told the university had chosen to “dismiss” him from his course following his lack of attendance at lectures and at an exam. But an inquest later heard that Ben had told the university three times that he was struggling to settle in and to ‘’connect’’.

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His parents, James and Janet Murray, from Fulham in London, accused the university of “failing” their son and demanded lessons to be learned.

Mr Murray later campaigned for a relaxation in data protection laws so families could be contacted if there were concerns. An opt-in programme to allow universities to do so was then created and pioneered at the University of Bristol.

Fresher Benjamin Murray, 19, killed himself while studying at the University of Bristol in 2018Fresher Benjamin Murray, 19, killed himself while studying at the University of Bristol in 2018
Fresher Benjamin Murray, 19, killed himself while studying at the University of Bristol in 2018

And in the last academic year alone a total of 98 students were contacted and helped by the scheme - potentially saving many lives.

In the first year of the opt-in scheme 2018/19, the university contacted parents or designated contacts 36 times. This has almost tripled in the last academic year 2021/22.

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Mr Murray said: “Ben’s legacy is one of kindness, I think Ben would be very pleased and proud that he’s had this impact on so many young lives.

“If just one person was helped to safety that would be enough.

“Yet to think that perhaps in amongst the 98 people whose families were contacted by Bristol because they had serious concerns about mental health, one was perhaps helped to safety...is enough.”

Ben died on 5 May 2018 while he was in the midst of being dismissed from the university in a formal process which involved no face-to-face meetings.

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The “bright” student had missed lectures and exams for his English Literature course and told the University he was suffering from anxiety.

In total 28 universities have now taken up the opt-in scheme - but Mr Murray has urged more to take part.

He added: “The grief won’t go away but its perspective in your life changes and this sort of information coming from Bristol is a step in the right direction for us that we can get more meaning from Ben’s life.

“Ben taught us all a big lesson, its a tough lesson, its a lesson in kindness, noticing other people and taking action if you have have got the slightest doubt or concern - you can save a life, suicide is preventable.”

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Alison Golden, director of student health and inclusion at Bristol University said: “It has to be really significant for us to call, we have to have serious concerns about the student.

“We try and tell the student in advance we are going to contact their emergency contact.

“It’s when we want to add something extra to the network of support we’re putting around that student, where we feel we can’t manage and we’re struggling to get them to engage.

“It’s too complicated an issue to say the scheme by itself will save lives but I guess for us its an extra tool we use a part of our framework to support students.”

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