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Student revealed suicidal thoughts before he went missing

PUBLISHED: 07:48 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:00 12 March 2019

Nick Sadler had suffered with mental health problems for several years, his family said. Picture: Will Sadler

Nick Sadler had suffered with mental health problems for several years, his family said. Picture: Will Sadler

Archant

Student Nick Sadler revealed suicidal thoughts the day before he went missing last month. His university’s mental health support is now coming under the spotlight after three recent deaths.

Nick's body was found in the UEA lake 11 days after he disappeared. Picture: ArchantNick's body was found in the UEA lake 11 days after he disappeared. Picture: Archant

Nick Sadler spent the evening of Thursday February 7 cooking for his flatmates, watching Netflix and posing for photos with friends.

Then, in the early hours of Friday he walked out of his house on Helena Road, Earlham, and was never seen alive again.

His brother Oliver spoke to him on the phone the weekend before.

“He seemed to be his normal cheeky self. He was teasing me about the Super Bowl,” he recalled.

Nick's brother Oliver said Nick had confided in a mentor the day before disappearing that he felt suicidal. Picture: Neil DidsburyNick's brother Oliver said Nick had confided in a mentor the day before disappearing that he felt suicidal. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The body of the 25-year-old was found 11 days later in the lake at the University of East Anglia.

He is the third UEA student in the last 10 months to be found dead after suffering from mental health problems.

His family, from King’s Lynn, knew the final year film student had long dealt with anxiety and depression but had no idea how badly things had escalated.

“Nick met his mentor on the Wednesday and they were sitting by the lake and Nick mentioned that he was feeling suicidal,” Oliver said. “It was not the first time he had expressed these thoughts but as far as we know Nick was never referred for mental health support at the UEA.

Jess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHERJess Fairweather, left, with his brother Sam, on Cromer Pier. Picture: COURTESY OF SAM FAIRWEATHER

“We were never told any of this. All they needed to tell us was, ‘you might want to check in with Nick’.”

He now wants the UEA to look again at the way it gives mental health support to students.

“It took me 10 minutes of research to see all the students from the UEA who have ended their lives,” he said.

“It is all very well the university putting nice words out but something is not working. Something needs to change because we are not the first family to go through this and we will not be the last.”

UEA student Jonathan Walker. Photo: Walker familyUEA student Jonathan Walker. Photo: Walker family

Second year psychology student Jonathan Walker, 23, was found dead in his room on May 13 last year. Jess Fairweather, 20, from North Walsham, took his life in October, just a few weeks into his course.

Head of wellbeing at the UEA Claire Pratt said students were facing increasing pressures over their future. Stress about exams, finances and being away from their families for the first time all added to the strain.

She said the service looked at referrals everyday and gave appointments quickly to the most urgent cases.

“Lots of people don’t walk through our doors and there are people we have never had the opportunity to help,” she said.

She hoped offering online therapy rather than face-to-face counselling would encourage students who were unwilling to come forward – particularly young white men – to seek help.

“We are training academics but we are not there to provide medical treatment,” she said.

Students with mental health problems can get counselling from the university’s Student Support Services (SSS).

But they report long waits to see anyone and more serious cases have to be referred to a GP and NHS mental health services.

Stock photo of UEA. Photo: UEAStock photo of UEA. Photo: UEA

Head of SSS Jon Sharp said the number of staff had doubled, waiting lists had been cut to around 30 days and he was seeking more investment from the university.

But against that, demand for services has soared. The number of students accessing mental health services at the UEA almost tripled in four years from 2013 to 2017 from 536 to 1,429.

Spending on mental health went up by a quarter in the same time to £450,000 a year, figures obtained by the Huffington Post reveal.

Other students at the UEA have shared their experiences of accessing mental health services since Mr Sadler’s death.

Ayeshah Lalloo, 22, wrote on social media last week: “It’s not about the statistics, but about the countless students who are struggling alone, who have tried or have taken their own lives, and the people who have dropped out of university because it was all too much.”

She received counselling after the pressure of her graduation year got too much.

The third year film and history student said: “I know a lot of students who have gone to SSS. A lot of people are telling me they will go and will be told there is a long waiting list or they have to go to the GP first.”

Lewis Oxley, 21, an English literature student, added “I’ve had a rather mixed experience. Access has been rather stress free. However, in terms of what I got out of it, that seemed less successful.

“I found myself in a worse place and sometimes there wasn’t enough emphasis on long-term plans for coping.

“Funding is key and promoting more wellbeing options available.”

Rose Ramsden, 19, who had counselling sessions with SSS, said: “The waiting time was significantly better than the NHS and my issues were taken seriously.”

Mr Sharp said: “We know there are some real problems with local mental health services but it would be dangerous for us to try to act as a proxy for that. The sad reality is that it is going to happen but the whole university sector is taking it very seriously.”

Last week education secretary Damian Hinds announced a task force to help students starting university with mental health needs.

•If you need to speak to someone contact the Samaritans on 116 123

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