Express and Star
Tuesday 24th August 2010, 11:30AM BST.
The parents of a Staffordshire teenager who was found dead at his student flat discovered at his inquest that he had been receiving counselling for depression from Birmingham University and had previously tried to hang himself.
Lawrence Stirk died from hanging in his flat in halls of residence in Pershore Road, Edgbaston on March 21, an inquest heard.
Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter yesterday recorded an open verdict.
The inquest heard that Lawrence had confided in his tutor Dr Ray Jones that he was upset about the end of his first serious relationship with his girlfriend of two years and had been drinking heavily.
Dr Jones contacted the university’s counselling and guidance service on February 5 and an appointment was made for later that day.
Lawrence’s parents Peter Stirk, an IT specialist, from Cannock, and Carolyn Done, a teacher, from Great Wyrley, said after the hearing that they had had no idea Lawrence had sought help from the service and a GP, who prescribed him anti-depressants, and had earlier tried to take his life.
They are calling for a review of whether parents should be kept informed.
His mother said that while they had to maintain confidentiality there should be an encouragement to contact their own families.
She added that it had come as “a complete shock” to find Lawrence had attempted suicide before.
His death had left “a huge chasm” in the lives of friends and family including his brother Alex, aged 20, and sister Izzy, 13. The family is urging that communication between students, student mentors, personal tutors and the service should be reviewed and improved to include parents.
Lawrence, a former pupil of Great Wyrley Performing Arts High School, was a straight A student, who was studying particle physics and cosmology. He told Dr Jones he had cut his wrist as well as trying to hang himself.
Director of the counselling and guidance service, Jean Turner, who saw Lawrence five times, said the university’s policy on confidentiality was in line with other universities.
Mr Cotter backed the counselling service, saying that students would be less than pleased if they were to learn that information given in strict confidence to those they trusted was then given to their parents or anybody else without their permission.
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