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Suicidal student was told: Go private for counselling

Brother found 22-year-old's body at accommodation in Holloway Road

28 June, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Stapleton House, where Moham­med Sayed’s body was found

JUST weeks before he killed himself a “friendly” student at a world-renowned university was told to rely on private medical insurance instead of seeing a university counsellor who had “increased waiting times”, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Mohammed Sayed, a masters student in mechanical engineering at University College London, was found dead by his brother at Stapleton House student accommodation in Holloway Road in January.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell concluded that the 22-year-old had killed himself through asphyxiation.

She is to prepare a Prevention of Future Deaths report after hearing about the care Mr Sayed received from Camden and Islington NHS Trust in the run-up to his death.

Mr Sayed, from Kuwait, would cry in front of Dr Emily Attree, his GP at Ridgmount Practice, in Fitzrovia, telling her he was struggling to concentrate and was “very unhappy inside” during a series of appointments in the two months before his death.

He also told her that he was not enjoying his university course but felt unable to drop out.

In a written statement read to the St Pancras inquest, Dr Attree said Mr Sayed had told her in December last year “he had contacted UCL disability and wellbeing, who told him to go on a private referral because of increased waiting times” for counselling services for students through the university.

He later found out his private medical insurance did not include counselling or psychological care.

Dr Attree said she had grown increasingly concerned as he detailed planned methods of suicide.

She referred him to the crisis team at Camden and Islington NHS Trust at Highgate Mental Health Centre, but he was not deemed high risk enough to be taken into their care.

Mr Sayed was referred to the crisis team for a second time on January 23 – just days before he died – and was seen for an assessment on January 25 but was not taken on. He was told to use its emergency phone line and iCope, a self-referral service offering online therapies and one-to-one counselling.

Dr Fredrik Johansson, interim clinical director at the crisis team, told the inquest that “our services were extremely stretch­ed”. It was its ambition that referred patients should be seen in four hours. Mr Sayed was assessed 48 hours after referral.

In her statement, Dr Attree said of the crisis team’s decision in January: “I don’t understand their risk assessment. I told them I was very concerned that they did not take him on despite [him] having the equipment to take his own life.”

In her concluding remarks, Ms Hassell praised Dr Attree, who had been “deeply concerned about him [Mr Sayed] and had gone to great lengths to secure appropriate treatment”.

Ms Hassell was concerned by the “tenor” of comments from Charlene Hales, clinical team manager at the crisis team, who told the inquest that “it’s very difficult to think what else could have been done”.

Ms Hassell told the inquest: “I have to tell you, whatever is coming from the top is not filtering down to those most frequently involved [with suicidal patients].” Her Prevention of Future Deaths report makes the recipient legally bound to respond with changes to be made to prevent similar deaths.

Ms Hassell also censured Islington Police for their “sub-optimal investigation” into Mr Sayed’s death.

Speaking after the in­quest, a friend of Mr Sayed’s told the Tribune that he “was a very cheerful and wonderful teammate”. Marcus Chien Eu Joen said: “He was a very friendly project leader who tried his best to help the team work together.”

A UCL spokesman said that wellbeing was a “high priority”. The university offers a student wellbeing service which includes daily drop-in sessions, advisors and crisis services. It also offers psychological and counselling services.

He added: “Through these two services we have robust protocols for any student experiencing suicidal thoughts, ensuring students receive priority risk assessments and referral to mental health services.”

He also said: “The student had no interactions with UCL Student Psychological and Counselling Services. If he had done so, he would have been seen within 24 to 48 hours, assessed as high risk and immediately referred to NHS crisis services.”

• At the request of the family, who were not at the inquest, we have changed the student’s name.
• Samaritans can be called free at any time, from any phone on 116 123.

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