The parents of a student who took her own life are suing her university, saying it “failed in its legal duties”.
Natasha Abrahart, 20, a second year physics student at the University of Bristol, died in April 2018.
Her family argues that her death was caused by “discrimination” she suffered as a result of a social anxiety disorder.
A university spokeswoman said staff “repeatedly” tried to help her, and an inquest found no fault on its part.
The inquest in 2019 ruled Miss Abrahart took her own life, partly because of neglect by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust.
Robert and Margaret Abrahart, from West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, have filed their case with Bristol County Court under the Equality Act.
‘Bright and able’
Their lawyers say it is believed to be the first case of its kind involving a university in which legal action has been taken following the death of a student.
The couple said their daughter was “bright and academically able” but experienced anxiety and panic attacks over giving group presentations.
“Natasha became acutely and increasingly distressed,” said Mr Abrahart.
“The fear of failing, not performing, or not progressing on the course affected her deeply and she became pre-occupied by feelings of worthlessness.”
Months before her death, Miss Abrahart was diagnosed with “chronic social anxiety with suicidal ideation”, and the family believe the university should have supported her more because of this.
“Instead the university continued to put her through the ordeal of oral assessments and downgraded her when she performed badly or couldn’t face attending,” Mr Abrahart added.
“We feel the university should at least acknowledge what happened in the lead-up to Natasha’s death, show some remorse or regret, and apologise.”
The couple are crowdfunding for their legal challenge, and say they want to see standards of care improved for vulnerable students.
Her father said: “There will be other Natashas in the pipeline, and this situation will be repeated, and I’m just not going to stand back and let somebody else’s child suffer in the same way Natasha did.”
Gus Silverman, representing them, said: “The university owed Natasha legal duties not to cause her psychological harm and ensure its assessment regime didn’t discriminate against her as a disabled student.
“Natasha’s parents are firmly of the view the university didn’t meet these legal duties.”
Miss Abrahart was one of 11 University of Bristol students to take their own lives between 2016 and 2018.
A university spokeswoman said “wellbeing remains at the heart” of the institution.
In a statement it said: “We recognise mental health as one of the biggest public health issues, which is why we have adopted an institute-wide approach to foster an inclusive and safe environment for all students and staff.”