An inquest has concluded into the death of a UEA student who was found dead in his room on campus earlier this year. First-year law student Christopher Harris died on 28th April 2015. He had been discovered unresponsive in his halls of residence, Nelson’s Court, by his father’s partner.
Outpourings of condolence were posted online and an email sent to students from the Head of Law read: “We all grieve Christopher’s loss and I know that this will be a difficult time for his friends in the school and the wider university… I and all my colleagues, and especially those who taught and advised Christopher – are deeply saddened by his loss”.
His father said at the inquest: “He was a lovely and caring child who was extremely clever, but sadly his difficulties overcame him and he is desperately missed by all of his family. He was an only child, which makes it extremely difficult”.
The 23-year-old had been on medication for both physical and mental health problems. The inquest heard that he may have developed an opiate dependency; a medical conditions that characterize the compulsive use of opioids, such as morphine, heroin and codeine.
[su_spoiler title=”Mental health support at university” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”End”]Although arriving at university is very exciting it can also be an extremely stressful time. The pressures of venturing into the unknown, meeting new people, living away from home for the first time, as well as experiencing work and financial pressures, can be overwhelming.
In my opinion, there is not enough being done at UEA to cater for people with mental health problems. The union does not do enough to raise awareness of the mental health support services available to students. I know that in my first year I wasn’t aware of the options out there if you experience any kind of mental health difficulties. For example, there should be leaflets and support when you first arrive telling you exactly how to seek help if you need to.
Additionally, it is simply disgusting that there are currently over 180 people on the waiting list for the Dean of Student’s counselling service. Mental health issues need to be recognised on the same level as a physical illness. They can be just as debilitating and if not treated properly can have devastating effects.
However, the efforts of societies to support and raise awareness of mental health cannot be faulted; from tackling ‘the elephant in the room’ by wearing elephant costumes to providing positive messages on coffee cups in Unio.
This effort by students should not be for nothing, UEA needs to reconsider what needs funding most and re-prioritise so that in the future students can gain this support without waiting.
Although effective painkillers, opiates can cause a dependency to develop if they are used regularly for an extended period of time.
A month before Christopher’s death, a doctor had expressed concerns at the amount of medication he was prescribed. Dr Wendy Nixon, a GP at the UEA’s medical services gave evidence at the inquest, “He was on a lot of medication for some time and had been seen by various specialists over the years”, she said.
His cause of death was determined as “fatal opiate poisoning, in combination with the painkiller oxycodone and pregabalin, a drug used to reduce the effects of anxiety”.
The inquest concluded, on Tuesday 24th November, that his death was accidental but that it raised ‘concerns’ over a lack of an integrated approach by medical services.