Natasha Abrahart’s parents are suing Bristol University for negligence over her suicide

Abrahart died by suicide on the day she was due to give a presentation

The parents of Natasha Abrahart, a Bristol student who died by suicide in 2018, are taking legal action against the uni.

Robert and Margaret Abrahart claim Physics student Natasha, who suffered from social anxiety and took her life on the day she was due to give a presentation, was failed by the university.

As they file a claim at county court, the Abraharts say Bristol was negligent, discriminated against Natasha on the grounds of a disability, and did not “take reasonable care” of her.

“We know nothing will bring her back but we feel the University of Bristol should at least acknowledge what happened in the lead-up to Natasha’s death, show some remorse or regret, and apologise,” Robert Abrahart told the Guardian.

At the inquest into Natasha’s death last year, the coroner found that Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust failed to provide adequate care.

No fault was found with the university, however Natasha’s parents afterwards announced their intention to sue the university, claiming it was in denial and had “attempted to shut down, block and narrow any meaningful examination of its actions.”

Bristol claims it offered Natasha adequate support, including offering her extenuating circumstances to allow her to continue studying and collecting her from her flat when she told them she was suicidal in an email.

“The university owed Natasha legal duties not to cause her psychological harm and to ensure its assessment regime didn’t discriminate against her as a disabled student. Natasha’s parents are firmly of the view that the university didn’t meet these legal duties,” Gus Silverman, the Abraharts’ lawyer told the Guardian.

“Natasha’s parents have had to turn to the civil courts to seek justice for their daughter. They are determined to try to improve the standard of care provided to vulnerable students around the country.”

Robert, Natasha’s father, told the Guardian: “Natasha was bright and academically able. Her self-esteem was rooted in her academic ability and achievement. However, because of the discrimination that we believe she suffered, Natasha became acutely and increasingly distressed. The fear of failing, not performing, or not progressing on the course affected her deeply and she became pre-occupied by feelings of worthlessness.

“We believe that the university should have done more to support Natasha throughout her second year. The pain of losing Natasha is something that will never leave us.”

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol told The Tab: “In May 2019, an inquest found that Natasha Abrahart, a student at the University, sadly took her own life in April 2018. Her death deeply affected everyone at the University but particularly her family and friends and the staff and students who knew her best.

“Legal proceedings regarding Natasha’s death are now underway, and so it would be inappropriate for the University to comment further at the present time.

“We recognise mental health as one of the biggest public health issues, which is why we have adopted an institute-wide approach to foster an inclusive and safe environment for all students and staff. We are also committed to reducing the stigma around mental health and creating space for it to permeate through every aspect of the University’s culture and experience.

“Wellbeing remains at the heart of our University and we will continue to develop and implement our mental health support services and strategies to ensure our students and staff have access to the most effective and timely support possible.”

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