Let universities alert parents about students’ struggles, says father

Jun 16, 2018 by

James Murray, whose son killed himself, calls for opt-out system on sharing mental health concerns

Ten Bristol University students have ​​died since October 2016

Ten Bristol University students have died since October 2016. Photograph: University of Bristol

The father of a student who killed himself is calling for the relaxation of data protection rules that currently deter universities from alerting parents that their child has serious mental health problems.

Last month Ben Murray, 19, who was studying English, became the third Bristol University student to die in the space of three weeks. Ten Bristol students have died since October 2016.

Ben’s father, James Murray, is urging universities to introduce changes this summer, before the next intake of freshers in September, in order to better support vulnerable students and prevent further suicides.

Central to his demands is that universities should be given the authority to share information with parents if there are serious concerns about a student’s wellbeing. If students do not want that information to be shared, they should be required to sign an opt-out, he argues.

“I understand that sharing data needs to be curtailed in certain situations, but in this situation we’ve got to stop the intellectual debate on data privacy and focus on protecting the vulnerable,” Murray said.

He said he hoped his son’s death on 5 May would mark a turning point in the way universities handle cases of students with poor mental health.

There are already changes afoot at Bristol, which is implementing an opt-in contract with students that would allow for contact with nominated next of kin if major concerns arise about their wellbeing.

Source: Let universities alert parents about students’ struggles, says father | Education | The Guardian

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