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Teen with suicidal thoughts quits UEA and returns to New Zealand over poor support

PUBLISHED: 12:57 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 18 September 2019

Norwich student, Caelin Cassidy, who left the country after having to wait a month for help with suicidal thoughts says she supports calls for universities to be legally responsible for mental health. Photo: Caelin Cassidy

Norwich student, Caelin Cassidy, who left the country after having to wait a month for help with suicidal thoughts says she supports calls for universities to be legally responsible for mental health. Photo: Caelin Cassidy

Archant

A student quit the University of East Anglia and headed home to New Zealand because she had to wait for too long to get help with suicidal thoughts.

Caelin Cassidy was a second-year student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) from January to June this year.

But the New Zealander, who had planned to stay in the UK until December 2019, left early after a relapse of depression, anxiety and panic attacks saw her wait weeks for support from the university.

It comes as Norfolk MP Norman Lamb called for a mental health charter to give universities a legal responsibilty to support students, which Miss Cassidy has said she supports "more than 100pc".

Miss Cassidy, a psychology student, said: "I found myself in quite a bad relapse with the main concerns being self-harm and intrusive suicidal thoughts.

Suffolk Road at the University of East Anglia has seen the third highest number of thefts in the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSuffolk Road at the University of East Anglia has seen the third highest number of thefts in the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"After being in denial for a few weeks my flatmates convinced me I needed to seek help."

Miss Cassidy completed an online form from the university and was told she was in crisis and to see a GP but although her medication was adjusted, she continued to struggle while waiting to see support services.

"My flat mates had to monitor me because I was that much of a danger to myself," she said. "It was a lot for them to deal with so they went to the uni out of concern for my safety."

She was told she could see a wellbeing advisor in two weeks time. A week later, a month after the online form, she was told she could see a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT) but had already made the "very tough decision to move back home".

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Miss Cassidy was given a CBT six-week online course which she said was "exactly what I needed".

She added: "It's just a shame it took so long to get the help."

Miss Cassidy said the wait was "frustrating and disheartening" and added: "If I hadn't had that support system, I wouldn't have made it through the wait without suicide attempts."

Norman Lamb at his home in Norwich. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodNorman Lamb at his home in Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

A UEA spokesperson said: "To hear that we have fallen short for a student in need of support is disappointing."

They said the delay was "likely to be down to staff shortages and a high volume of demand for our service at the time" and said waiting times had reduced by more than half since 2016 and an investment of more than £1m into the wellbeing service had begun.

- For help at UEA call SSS on 01603 592761 or email student support@uea.ac.uk.

- The Samaritans helpline can be called for free on 116 123 from anywhere in the UK.

READ MORE: Drowned student's brother backs call for universities to have legal mental health responsibility

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