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Mum of Cranbrook student, 20, who died in hospital after trying to take her own life says she was 'failed' by Newcastle University

By Gabriel Morris

The devastated family of an "incredible" young woman who took her own life say she was failed by her university and a legal duty of care is needed.

Phoebe Grime, from Cranbrook, died in hospital two days after being found at her accommodation at Newcastle University.

Following an inquest, Phoebe's mother hit out at the university for not providing enough support for her "incredible and exceptional" daughter.

Less than a year after joining in 2019, the philosophy student's mental health declined due to a mix of the Covid-19 lockdown, deadlines and problems with her living arrangements.

In October 2020 she reached out to the university's mental health services, telling them she had suicidal thoughts, and was given anti-depressants by her GP. She also saw a private psychotherapy service her father had arranged.

In April 2021, the 20-year-old took a turn for the worse after her father was diagnosed with lung cancer and she went through a break up.

She was offered counselling by the university in May but less than a day after her second session she attempted to take her own life.

Phoebe Grime, 20, from Cranbrook, died in hospital after attempting to take her own life
Phoebe Grime, 20, from Cranbrook, died in hospital after attempting to take her own life

Phoebe's mother Hilary Grime and brother Hamish have been left heartbroken by her death.

Mrs Grime said Phoebe was an "incredible person in so many ways" and she was "exceptional, great fun and intelligent".

She added: "There isn’t a word in the dictionary for describing the grief of losing a child – the closest, I think, is brutal.

“I’m really grateful for the amazing 20 years Phoebe shared with us.

“I feel like when Phoebe died a big bulletproof glass came down in front of us and I can look back and see the life we had. I can kick and scream but can’t get back to that and now I have to turn around and find my own path slowly.”

Hilary Grime believes her daughter was failed by Newcastle University
Hilary Grime believes her daughter was failed by Newcastle University

After an inquest Ms Grime joined forces with fellow bereaved parent Bob Abrahart, who founded the Learn Network and is calling for greater mental wellbeing protection for students.

Mr Abrahart's daughter Natasha took her own life in 2018 while studying at Bristol University.

The pair are part of a group of parents who have banded together to have a legal duty of care by universities debated at Parliament. The group has set up a petition and is hoping to reach 100,000 signatures so the topic can be debated.

Meanwhile, the family say they are still searching for answers after a "hugely unsatisfactory" inquest.

Mrs Grime was unhappy with how the inquest, which was held at Newcastle Coroner's Court, unfolded and thought more questions should have been asked about the university's handling of Phoebe's mental health.

The grief-stricken mother added: "We had the inquest in Newcastle which was hugely unsatisfactory because it was two hours long and the coroner didn’t ask enough questions of the university.

“They stood up and said shocking things about how they weren’t aware how serious Phoebe’s mental health issue was, yet they knew she had a suicide plan in October 2020 and her father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in April.

“We got the timelines from the coroner and it was only then I realised what a terrible situation she had been in for a very long time."

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Phoebe's brother Hamish described her as a "fun and kind" sister and has been trying to answer the family's questions himself by looking into Phoebe's life before her death.

He said: “I didn’t feel that justice was done at the inquest. The university witness was allowed to tell Phoebe’s story under oath but we didn’t have the opportunity to tell the story from our perspective.

“The conclusion the coroner came to was there was nothing more Newcastle University could have done to prevent her death which I feel is totally wrong.

"We have seen emails of Phoebe saying in January ‘urgent help please’ in the subject of the message and the body 'urgent help me please I would be grateful if you could give me a date for counselling'."

Paying tribute to his sister, he added: “Phoebe was a great sister was a lot of fun, kind and was always up for anything.

“I have a photo in my room of us sliding about in the mud together. She had a great attitude for life.”

Brother Hamish Grime doesn't feel justice was done at his sister's inquest
Brother Hamish Grime doesn't feel justice was done at his sister's inquest

Following the hearing, assistant coroner Karin Welsh said: “Having considered things very carefully, I cannot identify any point where things should have been done differently for Phoebe by anybody involved in her support.”

A Newcastle University spokesman said: “We were devastated by Phoebe’s death and our thoughts go out to her family and friends.

“Phoebe was a talented and popular student who had great potential and she will be remembered fondly by the staff and students who had the pleasure of knowing her during her time at Newcastle University.

“In the 18 months she studied with us, Phoebe received ongoing help and we had been working hard to support her through her studies.

“A support plan was in place to help her with her academic studies, and she had a dedicated counsellor who was helping her during a very difficult time.

“The coroner in Phoebe’s inquest found they could not identify any point where things could have been done differently, either in the case of the University or her private counsellor.

“Nonetheless, we are never complacent and continuously work to improve the services and support we provide students.

“Like all schools, colleges and universities, we are acutely aware of the increasing number of young people needing mental health support.

“Working with key partners, we support any student who is struggling with their mental health and offer a range of support options to meet the many different needs, including referral to more specialist services.”

Catch the full report on ‘Kent Tonight’, airing on KMTV this evening at 5.30pm on Freeview channel 7 and Virgin Media channel 159.

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