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Birmingham student died after falling into a ‘black hole’ in mental health services

He died in April this year following a history of mental health issues

An inquest into the death of Dan Collins, an English and Creative Writing student at the University of Birmingham, has revealed that he was assessed by a number of mental health professionals as recently as weeks before his death.

Dan had been referred following family illness and a break up with his girlfriend of five months, which was described as an "intense" relationship. His ex-girlfriend contacted the university twice to raise her concerns regarding his mental health.

At the inquest, the coroner said Dan had fallen into a "black hole" in mental health services, and said there is "an on-going risk to other people who are in a period of crisis".

The coroner heard Dan had spent two days in Queen Elizabeth Hospital three weeks before his death after he overdosed on paracetamol, yet was discharged following an assessment by Birmingham’s Rapid, Assessment, Interface and Discharge (RAID) team. Dan was discharged as he did not meet the criteria for sectioning, was not a risk to himself or others, had "full capacity and insight" and was willing to accept help.

Dan Collins was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital following an overdose three weeks prior to his death

Zara Welch, one of the RAID team nurses who carried out the assessment of Dan, told the coroner: “My main concerns for Dan were not what he was telling us. He seemed flat – he said all the right things but he did present as someone who needed some help.”

Following his discharge, Dan was visited by a senior mental health practitioner from Forward Thinking Birmingham’s crisis team, the city’s mental health partnership for people up to the age of 25. He was then referred to mental health counselling service The Living Well Consortium and given a leaflet with ways to contact the service, yet he never sought the service.

Dan met with members of the University of Birmingham's student welfare team following his overdose, and had his last meeting there on the 25th April with college welfare manager Adrian Powney. Mr Powney stated that Dan told him he was going to arrange an appointment with his GP.

The 22-year-old of Kensington Avenue, Sparkbrook, was found in an area of Moseley Bog on April 28th this year. The post-mortem examination revealed he had taken an overdose.

The University of Birmingham's counselling service has faced much criticism recently, following a series of complaints regarding issues such as the temporary suspension of appointments in December. The Tab subsequently launched an investigation and found the university employed only six counsellors for its 30,000 students.

Six months ago we reported that the University of Birmingham were aware of UoB student Andrew Warden's mental health issues, prior to his death by suicide. His family later criticised the university's duty of care and failure to make them aware of his deteriorating mental health.

James Bennett, Assistant Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said the gap in services the inquest had highlighted meant he would write a Report to Prevent Future Deaths.

He said: “I do think that Dan fell into a black hole in some way. I am concerned that there is an on-going risk to other people who are in a period of crisis. They may fall into that black hole if all the responsibility is placed on them to make contact with services where they are in a period of crisis.”

For anyone affected by this story or seeking help, information about the universities counselling and well-being services can be found on their website.

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