Trigger warning: discussions of suicide
Within the past week an internal investigation has found that the University of Edinburgh could have done more to prevent the death of student Romily Ulvestad.
Romily, known as Romy to her friends and family, was a Classics student who died by suicide in April 2020, just four days after her 21st birthday in her family home in West London.
However, the investigation has revealed that Romy’s mental health rapidly worsened during her time at University.
What has been seen by many of the student’s family and friends as the most troubling element of the investigation is the university’s lack of response in helping Romy, despite repeated warnings from the student directly, and those noted by her personal tutor.
These indications were perhaps alluded to through a series of coursework extension requests, appointments with her tutor and most notably visits to the student support office asking for aid.
The four-month long review has concluded that both the university’s systems and indeed staff were underfunded and underprepared to cope with an influx of mental health issues arising in students, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Previously, the university have stated that they “have a wide range of policies, procedures and services in place to ensure that [students] get the help required whenever they are facing challenges and periods of difficulty.”
However Romy’s family believe that they should have been made aware by the HCA (school of History, Classics and Archaeology) of their daughter’s mental state.
Upon Romy’s failure to meet with Dr Sandra Bingham, a senior teaching fellow and her personal tutor, the university failed to “escalate the situation” – an action that would have been considered academic protocol.
Edinburgh University have stated that “contacting a student’s emergency contacts without their consent can be problematic”, yet it is now felt that consideration should have been given to alerting Ulvestad’s parents.
Romy’s mother, Mrs Libby Ulvestad, told the media, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life wondering if they had behaved in a different way, whether my daughter’s life might have continued.”
The University of Edinburgh since this investigation has acknowledged all their shortcomings in the case of Romy Ulvestad, accepting their failings and creating a report of twenty-one recommendations for such pastoral instances in the future.
A reorganization of the personal tutor system to ensure that students keep the same staff member throughout their time at university and a uphaul of protocol for escalating student’s cases of concern have been proposed.
The impact of Covid-19 has been monumental for mental health impacts on students, with a first-year student from Brae House telling The Student that the university’s response has been “frustrating and disappointing” and a second-year English Student stating that while working from home has made her feel more “anxious and isolated”, the “support received from my tutor [when] I reached out was amazing.”
It is hoped across the student community that the University of Edinburgh does indeed continue placing importance on the academic and pastoral relationships between students and their tutors and that they abide by these new promises and schemes introduced within this report.
The Student sends their deepest condolences to Romy Ulvestad’s family and friends.
Image: via geograph.org.uk