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The university broke the law by forcing terrified suicidal students to give a presentation

Natasha Abrahart, 20, was found dead on the day she was due to attend a group presentation in a Bristol University lecture hall after raising her concerns to advisers

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Bristol: Family of student who took his own life ‘finally have the truth’

A top university has been ordered to pay more than £50,000 in damages for discriminating against a student who killed herself.

Natasha Abrahart was crippled with shyness and fear at the prospect of presenting her work to a large group of other students at the University of Bristol.

The idea made her suicidal – and she told Bristol University advisers in 2018 that she feared she could take her own life if she had to. BristolLive reports.

Her parents fought back tears as they welcomed a ruling that said the university violated disability discrimination laws in the way they treated the 20-year-old.

They said the university didn’t take their fears seriously enough and threatened to downplay them if they didn’t make the presentation.







The second-year physics student died at the age of 20
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Courtest family Abrahart / SWNS)







Natasha’s family are hoping Bristol University “finally gets its head out of the sand”.
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Courtest family Abrahart / SWNS)

On the day Natasha was due to give the presentation in a 329-seat auditorium, her body was found at her home in Park Street, Bristol.

The judge in the case found the University of Bristol responsible for multiple breaches of statutory duties owed to the 20-year-old in the run-up to her suicide in April 2018, and ordered the university to reimburse the family for the cost of her funeral, and award them £50,000 in damages.

Bristol University said it will take time to consider the ruling and also said it could appeal because the ruling would have a “significant impact” on the way universities support their students.

The second-year physics student, originally from Nottingham, was diagnosed with chronic social anxiety disorder two months earlier.







Her parents said the university didn’t take her fears seriously enough
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Courtest family Abrahart / SWNS)

She was a top performer in her sophomore year, but by the start of that sophomore year, in October 2017, the academic staff became aware that she was struggling, scared, and having panic attacks because part of her course was connected to her work before present to fellow students.

The judge in the case said there was nothing in the course structure that meant she had to make a personal presentation to a large audience, and she could have had her present her work via text, recording or writing.

Natasha’s parents, Dr. Robert and Mrs Margaret Abrahart, filed a lawsuit against the university, saying they failed to protect and discriminated against her because of her disability.







Parents Robert and Margaret Abrahart said the ruling should be a “wake-up call” for all educational institutions
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Tom Wren (SWNS)

In what Judge Alex Ralton called a tragic case, he concurred, citing multiple times when the university had done so in a 46-page written judgment.

dr Abrahart, standing next to his wife Margaret, struggled to read a prepared statement after the verdict was announced. “Today, 1,481 days after Natasha took her own life on the day of an investigation she simply could not carry out, after years of protests from the university that she had done everything she could to support her.

“After struggling through an investigation and civil case, we finally have the truth: the University of Bristol broke the law and subjected our daughter to utterly unnecessary psychological trauma for months as she watched her grades and her hopes drop the future crumbles before their eyes,” he said.

Ms Abrahart, a retired psychotherapist, added: “We really hope that the University of Bristol will finally pick its head out of the sand and recognize that now is the time for change.







The suffering student who took her own life in 2018
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Courtest family Abrahart / SWNS)

“We stand ready to work with them to ensure the mistakes that led to Natasha’s death are not repeated so that other families do not suffer as we do. We hope that you will apologize for the role you played in Natasha’s death and accept our offer of help,” she added.

The Abrahart family lawyer said the ruling should be a “wake-up call” for all colleges.

“They need to make sure they understand and are fulfilling their obligations under the Equality Act,” said Gus Silverman. “This means that disabled students, including those disabled by mental illness, are not assessed in the same way as students who do not share their disability when such assessments put those students at a significant disadvantage, unless there is a great deal good reason for it.

“It’s not about giving disabled students an unfair advantage over their peers; It’s about creating a level playing field so everyone has a chance to succeed. As Natasha’s case tragically demonstrates, violating the Equality Act is not only unlawful, it can be deadly,” he added.

Natasha was being cared for at the time of her death by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership – this NHS trust has already reached an agreement with the family and acknowledged that Natasha’s care was inadequate.

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A University of Bristol spokesman said: “Our entire university community is deeply saddened by Natasha’s tragic death and we would like to once again extend our condolences to her friends and family.

“We believe the School of Physics staff worked incredibly hard and diligently to support Natasha during her time with us and it was thanks to their efforts that she received specialist mental health support from the NHS.

“Our staff’s efforts also included offering alternative options for Natasha’s assessments to ease the anxiety she felt about sharing her lab results with her peers. We are very grateful to them for their efforts on Natasha’s behalf and for their unwavering commitment to our students.

“Given the significant impact this decision could have on how all higher education providers support their students, we are carefully reviewing the decision, including whether to appeal. In light of this review, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the judgment at this time,” they added.

When life gets tough, Samaritans are there – day and night, 365 days a year. You can call them toll-free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find the branch nearest you.

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