Debate on whether universities should contact parents during a mental health crisis in the UK continues

Universities in the UK do not have to contact parents or guardians of students facing serious mental health problems on their campuses. To many parents, this fact is oblivious to them, and they hold the assumption that they would be contacted in such cases.

However, this is not the cases for over 90 per cent of UK universities. Citing confidentiality and the fact that almost all students in these institutions are adults, and therefore they do not need intervention from parents, universities have always indicated that they would only contact parents when the students request them. 

Universities and mental health crisis

For Former police officer Lee Fryatt whose son, Daniel, a 19-year-old student at Bath Spa University, died by suicide in 2018, assumed that he would be the first person to be contacted if his son ever got into problems. However, that was not the case and he was the last person to know that his son had been suffering from mental health issues

Fryatt indicated that, like many parents who had faced similar tragedies, he was the last person to know that his son had been suffering from a mental health crisis. His son had told the university of the mental health issues he was dealing with, but he had not been informed. 

Fryatt continued by saying that he believes that had he been notified on time, Daniel would still be alive, indicating that he had assumed wrongly that if his son was flagged as being in a risky position, he would be the first to be contacted as a parent. 

Ceara Thacker was also a student at the University of Liverpool in 2018 when she took her life in 2018. Just like Fryatt, her parents were not notified beforehand that she was going through a mental health crisis and only came to know after the suicide. 

The pain is also the same for the family who said that had they known that her daughter was going through a tough time, they would have intervened and helped their daughter. 

The solutions on how to address them have always been in discussion, with the most promising steps being proposed after Fryatt son’s death in 2018. However, fast forward to date and the hopes of setting up an opt-in option for students to notify their parents or guardians about the current mental states has not been very popular with universities. 

Although data showed that over 90 per cent of such a move, universities were unwilling to implement it, with 90 per cent of the universities in the UK failing to offer such a choice.