Manchester student who hanged himself was deemed low risk

Rowan Sollitt, 19, killed himself 24 hours after he had been assessed as a low risk by counsellors, an inquest heard

A suicidal student who hanged himself at his halls of residence had been assessed as a low risk by counsellors just 24 hours earlier, an inquest has heard.

Rowan Sollitt, 19, a Manchester Metropolitan University first year, visited an ‘open door’ health and well-being service and told them ‘the world would be better off if he was dead.’

The student also showed staff the cuts to his wrists from self harming but the teenager was sent away after a 10 minute consultation with a counsellor.

He was told he would be placed on a waiting list of up to seven weeks.

The following day Rowan who was studying computer science at Manchester Metropolitan University was found dead in his bedroom at New Medlock House by a plumber who had come to fix a faulty lightbulb.

At an inquest into his death a coroner criticised the university service for their ‘naïve’ approach to mental health saying a 10 minute slot was not enough to determine what risk troubled student could pose to themselves.

Rowan, who grew up in a £360,000 farmhouse with his family in Denholme, near Bradford, has been described as an ‘extremely intelligent young man’.

But he battled with depression after his family moved back to the UK following a stint living in Mexico.

He was said to have ‘struggled to fit in,’ secretly been self harming and was subsequently prescribed anti-depressants by his GP.

The youngster attended the walk-in service on November 30 last year where he filled out the form before seeing a counsellor to indicate their thoughts and feelings prior to the consultation.

The teenager was said to have indicated ‘intrusive’ thoughts and said he ‘sometimes’ made plans to end his life and believed ‘the world would be better if he were dead – most of the time’ 

He said he ‘often thought about hurting himself.’

Rowan's father Michael said he appeared excited about November but he he had battled depression and struggled with the death of his grandfather

Rowan’s father Michael said he appeared excited about November but he he had battled depression and struggled with the death of his grandfather

Kathleen Matthews, a counsellor at Manchester Metropolitan university said: ‘Rowan walked into the open door service and when he came he said he had a history of depression and he went on to say he had self harmed himself in the past.

‘I asked him where he cut himself and he showed me his wrists. But he did not indicate that he wanted to kill himself and he had made future plans. For me to take the opposite view, he would have had to say to me or indicate that he was going to kill himself. If he had been a high risk the protocol would be to put him in a taxi to the hospital.

Rowan's family hope the much-loved 19-year-old's experience with mental health services will not be repeated for others

Rowan’s family hope the much-loved 19-year-old’s experience with mental health services will not be repeated for others

‘There is a 10 minute slot for each patient and if the patient says they are not going to take their own life we have to just believe them. I don’t think it is a naive view, we ascertain whether they are going to be safe when they leave the appointment.’ 

Yvonne Harris, the university’s Head of Counselling, Health and Wellbeing said: ‘That form is a standard form in the NHS. We ask the students to clarify these answers and if you don’t feel you have time in those 10 minutes, you do something else’. 

Earlier Rowan’s father Michael, 49, told the Manchester hearing: ‘2016 was a very busy year – he had completed his A-levels and gained a place at university. He went to Leeds music festival and went on a family holiday to Dubai. Two weeks before leaving for university, Rowan seemed excited – he had picked out the clothes he was going to wear on the first day.

‘But his grandfather died in November so Rowan came home to be with us and then went back to university as there was an event on with his friends. We had not been aware of any self harm, the only thing with Rowan was that he liked his independence and he liked to sort things out for himself and I think that is why he sought support.

‘I don’t think he wanted to trouble us and his intention would have been to get through it. We went to visit Rowan and went for lunch, he had an appointment with the doctor that afternoon, but we were not aware of this. We were laughing and talking about his dog and said he needed to come home for Christmas.

‘We went shopping and then dropped him off in the afternoon and that was the last time we saw him.

‘Even with the short space of time that he was at university he had friends and they would regularly come to stay with him, he was clearly interacting with people in the eight weeks or so that he was there.

‘We can’t change what has happened to Rowan, but maybe we can change things for future young people.

‘There are 50,000 students at this university. There needs to be sufficient funding to help with mental health and welfare services.

‘It’s a traumatic transition from being at home to being by themselves’.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Coroner John Pollard said: ‘Rowan had been struggling with his mental health and very sensibly he tried to seek help to deal with these issues. But having gone to these people, he seems to have answered the questions and then everyone is satisfied that he is not an immediate risk to himself’. 

Manchester Metropolitan University said in a statement: ‘Our student support services are constantly under review and will do our utmost to learn from the loss of Rowan in the event that there are further enhancements that we can provide to support our students.’

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