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Father of UEA student who took own life hopes to raise awareness of ‘smiling depression’

PUBLISHED: 15:37 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:07 28 February 2019

A photo of UEA student Jonathan Walker taken on March 14, 2018. His father said he had been a blood donor from a young age. Photo: Walker family

A photo of UEA student Jonathan Walker taken on March 14, 2018. His father said he had been a blood donor from a young age. Photo: Walker family

Archant

The father of a “bright and sociable” UEA student who took his own life says his son was suffering from “smiling depression”.

Second year psychology student Jonathan Walker was found dead in his room at Cambridge Street in Norwich on May 13 last year.

The 23-year-old had previously told doctors he was suffering from mental ill health, but stopped taking medication after claiming his mood had improved.

His father Nick Walker is now wanting to raise awareness about “smiling depression”, where people appear happy, but are internally suffering from depressive symptoms.

Speaking after his son’s inquest in Norwich on Wednesday, he said: “No one saw it coming.

“Jonathan was a kind, considerate and generous young man who took very seriously his acts of charity.

“When people think about depression they have this image of someone who is obviously depressed, but that is not always the case.

“Jonathan was very, very sociable. He was the life of the party.”

The inquest heard how Mr Walker, who was raised overseas, moved to the UK in 2015 to begin studying at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

His father said while his first year went well, problems started to emerge in his second year in 2017 and it became clear he would need to retake.

In a statement, his GP, Dr Gillibrand, said he saw Mr Walker in early 2017 and was told he had attempted to self harm in May that year.

In June he then requested a medical certificate to retake his year at university and was also prescribed the antidepressant Citalopram.

But in November he told his GP he stopped taking the medication in September as his mood had improved.

Bernadette Cant, occupational health physician at the UEA, said Mr Walker reported having difficulties since January 2017.

Mr Walker left farewell messages to his friends and family in his room before taking his own life.

His medical cause of death was given as asphyxiation.

Assistant Coroner Johanna Thompson concluded his death was suicide.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Walker’s father urged others suffering with depression to speak with friends of family about it.

He said: “If we thought Jonathan was truly depressed we would have been a lot more careful about monitoring him.

“Jonathan was a very, very bright guy and when he put his mind to something there was no stopping him.

“If he wanted the doctor not to know how he felt, he knew how to do it.”

Mr Walker added that his son had been a blood donor from a young age and would give clothing to the homeless.

• If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or need support contact the Samaritans which operates a 24-hour phone service on 116 123.

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