Student Suicide | Real Stories

September 2, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


My heart was pounding, like… It was like I had been electrocuted
or something. I was so tense. They told me to smash the door down
and get in there. And then it got really scary. When I got the inkling that
something was wrong, I just tried to call her, and call
her, and call her, and call her. I must have called her about
50 times. He says, “Are you the biological
mother of Stefan James Osgood?” “I don’t know how to tell you this, “but your brother isn’t alive
any more.” “I’m sorry to tell you,
but Lucy’s dead.” Andrew was my role model
more than you were. Sorry, Ryan! He was pretty much everything
I wanted to be. I literally thought I was going
to be the brother of the future best scientist or…
Some Nobel Prize winner. He would do something amazing, yeah. I did actually think he would win
a Nobel Prize. He probably would have. He might have done. Telling my children that their
brother was dead was horrendous. My boys, my two boys are always
going to be children whose brother
killed themselves. That’s hard. I met Andrew on my first day
of school. Once we were in sixth form, he was
probably my closest friend by then. He was always up for having
a good laugh, coming up with pretty ridiculous
things to say, which you wouldn’t expect
when you first meet him. He was completely unassuming,
he had no ego to him. But you could tell just from
speaking to him that he was extremely intelligent. Around 335,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been
getting their results today. Oh, my God! I can remember A-level results day
ridiculously well. Actually, we were being filmed
that day for a news programme. Oh, I’m so proud of you! The year before us at school, no-one
had gone to Oxford or Cambridge. I saw Andrew for about
three seconds, and we both just nodded at each
other, like, yep, we did it! No low grades for Andrew Kirkham – he got four A-stars,
and seemed stunned. I don’t know,
I haven’t really taken in all these words on this paper yet! Yeah. And where is it you want to go
and what do you want to do? Physics and philosophy, at Oxford. Andrew and his friend Effie both arrived at Oxford University
in autumn of 2012. When he had his matriculation,
he looked so smart. And I remember seeing the picture
and just laughing because I’d never seen him look
that smart before. But, yeah, he was sending me
messages like, “I’ve been looking on YouTube “how to tie this bowtie
for half-an-hour, “I’ve lost my shoes.” “Can you help me?” basically,
“I’m in trouble.” So, yeah, he was enjoying it. I did see Andrew in the first week outside a club,
which just blew my mind, because I’d never seen him clubbing
before in my entire life. I was Andrew’s first girlfriend. I actually felt that he was
my soul mate. I loved to brag and tell them, tell people that I had a boyfriend
who went to Oxford. I still do that sometimes, actually. The first thing he said to me where
I was like, “Whoa, that’s not OK,” was when he said he’d done
two all-nighters in a row. I was like,
that’s sleep deprivation, you’re going to feel really bad and it’s going to really mess
with your head. I think he was under a new level
of pressure that he wasn’t able
to completely overcome. And I think that was like
the first time he was, like, I don’t know if I’m at this level, I don’t know if I’m good enough to carry on doing this
and succeed at it. It’s amazing how quickly Andrew
went down, it really is. And I don’t know when it began
to fall apart, but it seems that it happened
very quickly. Unknown to Andrew, his friend Effie was also struggling
with university life. Once you get into somewhere
like Oxford, admitting that you don’t want
to be there, and leaving, is the most horrendous
thing in the entire world. There was this pressure from
the university, from, you know, society as a whole, to stay there. And I got myself into such a panic
and such a state over it. I remember saying to my mum, “I can’t do this any more,
I need to go home.” We’ve got a missing diary! And 2013, which is really
interesting, is… ..um, that big. That’s all it is, because it was
such a bad time for me. And literally, this is how bad
I thought it was. “I’ve fucked up my life,” um, “It doesn’t mean I have
to continue like that.” And that was in June. I actually haven’t read this back
in a long, long time. Andrew returned home that summer, determined to continue
with his studies. When we came back in the summer
for summer holidays, our family and his family had
a big barbecue at theirs. He was happy that he’d finished his
first year of university. But he wasn’t quite as enthusiastic
about his exams, certainly. I think he felt to himself, anyway, he hadn’t done as well as he thought
he might have done. When do you go from being sad
to depressed? And, to this day, I have no idea
when that point is. It’s not like you can pick out
people from a line and say, well, these ones are going to commit
suicide in their lifetime. It could happen to
literally anybody. OK, um, this is my ALS
ice bucket challenge. ALS, also known as motor neurone
disease in the UK. He said, “I want to go to
Aberystwyth University.” I think it was the surfer culture
that he wanted to be a part of. Anyway, he was brilliant at
snowboarding, brilliant at surfing, brilliant at skateboarding,
and I think he just thought Aberystwyth would be
a massive party, and surf party, that’s what
I thought he thought. Cool. Let’s go. Stefan did have a lot of
friends, yeah. Stefan just knew a stupid number
of people. He was just really funny. He just was a big character. He was my best friend. Every single night out with him
was brilliant and hilarious. He’d just do random stuff. Dance crazily than everyone else. He’d be more up for doing
that mad shot challenge that everyone was trying. He would always, always be the one pushing for people to have more fun
than they were having. So, this is a cheeky little
recorded message for Flopsy. He turned into my friend
more because he was honest with me. I just want you to know that you
suck, and I hate you, like, loads! Any time that I was feeling like
I had no energy, he’d bring all of his energy. I actually love you
and this is all just hate! We’d become, yeah, very close. Huh? Fist bump to the camera! Ooh! Ha-ha. There were two sides to Stefan.
There was the happy-go-lucky side… And then there was
the very intense side of him where he was very serious
about things and very quiet, and very introspective. He told me he had a history
of depression. He had quite a lot of scars
on his arms. And I remember… I noticed them
and never wanted to ask. And then, I think he brought it up
and I said, “Oh, I didn’t notice,” which was a bit of a lie,
because I had noticed. But, um, and so he told me then. When he was about 14, 15, it started
with anxiety attacks. He would withdraw
and go into himself, and he wouldn’t talk about it. Um, and then it would pass
and he’d move on. In March 2016, Stefan was approaching
his final exams at Aberystwyth. I think he was worried that he
wasn’t going to pass his degree, he wasn’t going to pass his finals,
and they were impending. He’d also spent all his rent. He got a letter saying
that, you know, action was going to have to be taken
if it didn’t get sorted out soon. I think uncertainty bothered Stefan
massively. And I think he was also tired
of his depressions, and tired of carrying them and
hiding them and not showing anybody. So, I think… ..a mixture of uncertainty,
fear of failure, and… he just didn’t did want to be
a burden. On the night of Stefan’s death, Clarissa dialled in for their usual
evening Skype. I spoke to Stefan for probably about four hours on Skype. We were watching House at the time. We’d each have Netflix up
and have each other on Skype, and we’d order Chinese
at the same time, and see whose would arrive first. Me and Stefan were just
having a normal catch-up, as far as I was concerned,
and that’s what it seemed like. Stefan and Clarissa had been
planning to move in together once his exams were over. I was talking about, um… ..when Stefan was moving
to Bristol, er… and about work, and stuff like that. And he said, “Oh, don’t worry,
everything’s going to be OK.” I think at the point where we had
that conversation, Stefan already knew what he was
going to do. I don’t know whether, at that point, he knew he was going to do it
that night. Um, but I think he knew
he was going to do it. Stefan sent me a message on Facebook at about four o’clock in the morning
saying, um… ..”I love you and I always will,
and I’m sorry.” As far as I’m aware, it happened some time
fairly soon after that conversation. At about nine o’clock
in the morning, there’s a knock at the door. And there’s a policeman. And he says… God, those words. ..”Are you the biological mother
of Stefan James Osgood?” I just, oh, shot to my feet,
and I said, “Yes, why? “Why? Is he all right,
is he all right?” I don’t know whether I felt it
straightaway, but I had a horrible feeling,
and I thought, “Oh, God.” And he said, “I’m so sorry
to tell you “that he’s passed away
this morning.” I put down the phone and went and sat on my bed,
and looked at the floor. Um… And then I think I cried
for about… ..five hours. Um… Yeah, I couldn’t stop. I don’t know why, I really…
I don’t know why he didn’t… ..didn’t tell me. It crosses my mind almost every day
why Stefan did what he did. He was feeling awful about a million
and one different things, and that drove him to what
he was going to do, he was going to take his life, and it’s not OK, because now we can’t fix it. I’m not saying it’s the ultimate
fix, but talking about it… Is a great start.
..helps, yeah, exactly. It’s the best start. And people just don’t want to.
No. This was the night where
she walked into the pub, and everyone just turned around
and was like, “Who’s that?” Because she is, like, the most
beautiful person ever. I remember loads of boys looking at
her, like, coming up to her and, “Who are you?” Trying to chat her up.
She was like, “Get away!” She used to look like
Dora the Explorer. When we were small, we were actually
like worst enemies. I guess I was quite jealous of her
coming into the world and taking all my limelight away. So, it was only really when we got
older that we became best friends. Aah-ha-ha! In September 2015, Lucy began
studying for her nursing degree. Lucy was so excited to do nursing. She was excited to look after
people. Because Lucy, she never really cared
about herself, she cared more about other people. She started the course in September, and she went to a Halloween ball
at one of the clubs, and she met a junior doctor. And they became serious
really quickly. If she got a boyfriend, it was
always something very serious. It would be all or nothing. They were talking about marriage,
they’d gone on holidays together. They were planning on moving in
together. She felt that she’d got her life
planned out. MOBILE PHONE RINGS Lucy was paying her own way
through university, working two jobs to pay the bills. Lucy would do 12 hours at the ward
at the hospital, what she loved. But then she would have to go and do
a shift at a restaurant. Like, really long shifts, six in
the evening until about 11.30, 12 at night. She was just on
a 12-hour shift. That’s not healthy for anyone. She did tell me that she was
struggling. There was just a lot of weight on
her shoulders and a lot of pressure, and there wasn’t much she could do
about it, really. In the spring term of
her second year, Lucy and her boyfriend split up. She was distraught. I’ve never seen anything like it. Because I think she thought she’d
met her dream person, like, they would spend the rest of
their life together. It just broke her. And I think that’s where it all
started to go downhill. I feel like, on top of all
the other pressures, that was the straw that broke
the camel’s back, really. On the day of Lucy’s death,
she met up with a few friends. She’d been socialising
a few hours earlier, and her friends certainly didn’t
think there was anything wrong. There were no warning signals. I think it was something
that happened quite suddenly. I think she went in a dark place. In the final hours before her death,
Lucy sent a text. When I got the inkling
that something was wrong, I just tried to call her, and call
her, and call her, and call her. I must have called her about 50 times without her answering,
frantically. I got a call from my mum’s number,
but it wasn’t my mum, it was a police officer. I decided not to wait for them
to have to break it to me. I just said to them, “Just tell me,
is she dead?” And they said, “Yes.” I just screamed. You know, she did call me and she
did say that she was depressed. So, yeah, I always said, “You can
talk to me about anything.” And she did, and she did. I guess, just, maybe, I don’t know,
I just couldn’t, I don’t know, I just couldn’t save her, I guess. Yeah. I don’t think anyone should have
to go through this feeling, because it’s a dark, dark feeling
of losing your best friend. Especially to suicide. Especially not at this age. How do you cope? Like, what do you do?
You don’t know what to do. In October 2013, Andrew returned to
Oxford to begin his second year. But his friend Effie didn’t return
with him. Here you go. I started seeing doctors and things
over the summer. I basically decided I didn’t want
to go back. I wish Andrew had known about me. I was feeling like this, and Andrew
was feeling like this, and I could have at any point just
gone, “You know what, Andrew? “I’m dropping out of university.
I think I’m depressed.” And that sort of sharing of stuff. If I’d have just done that, maybe
it would have changed things. Still struggling, Andrew only shared
his feelings with one person, his girlfriend Clarissa,
at home in Brazil. He told me that he felt like a fake, and that he was falling short of
the image that people had of him. And he told me he hadn’t been going
to his lectures, and skipping his tutorials,
and he hadn’t been doing any work, and he was just staying in his bed
all day and crying. And he didn’t want to tell
anyone else about his depression because he felt really ashamed. By November, Andrew was falling
seriously behind with his work. His tutor asked a local GP
to see him. His demeanour was neutral
and pleasant. He was not visibly distressed. He didn’t give much away
emotionally at all. I suggested he might want to talk to
the counselling service about it, but he was completely against that. I strongly encouraged him to share
it with his parents, which he, again, flatly refused to do so. Anyone over the age of 18
has the right to say that they don’t want their
parents to be informed. We always ask people about self-harm
thoughts, and I did with Andrew. He said he had
some fleeting thoughts, but would never act on them, and if someone says they will never
act on them, and you check on that, what else can you believe? Andrew was prescribed
antidepressants, and asked to come back for
another appointment. He told me that he really, really
wanted to die, and he didn’t even know any more
if he wanted to get better. Andrew made it very clear that he
didn’t want me to tell anyone. I was afraid that at the moment
I told someone, he would just… ..commit suicide, you know,
that he would feel so ashamed. The night of Andrew’s 20th birthday would be the last time he’d speak
to Clarissa. We laughed and we had, like,
a funny conversation, and we were talking about his friend
who’d come to see me in Brazil. I think we both thought that
when he came to Brazil, after he had spent a month with me,
he would feel better, and he would be ready to go back
to uni and do his work. We said we loved each other. Actually, I think it was the last
message he ever sent me was to say he loved me back. The next day, Andrew was called
to a meeting with his tutor, where it was suggested
he should consider taking a year’s medical leave. It would have been devastating,
absolutely devastating. His dream had crashed. I had an e-mail
from the college dean, saying that he was still worried
about Andrew, and that his tutor had said
that he seemed very distressed. I wish that Andrew
and I had met again, because it’s possible that he may
have been in a frame of mind to reveal his true intent. He had a train ticket
on Monday morning. He’d washed all his clothes. His birthday cards
were on his shelf. It was his birthday on
the Wednesday. He was given this news
on the Thursday. And on Friday, he bought the rest of the things he needed
to kill himself. I hadn’t heard from him
on Sunday morning. And he was going to Brazil
on Monday morning. I sent a text that said
something like, “You’re really worrying me now. “If I don’t hear from you by 12,
I’m just going to come.” I actually at that point
still thought maybe he was asleep on somebody
else’s floor after a party. But as I left the house here, and drove up the motorway, I was… Something felt wrong. Because I got there and there was
nobody at the house. I had a phone call from the dean, who told me to smash the door down
and get in there. And then it got really scary. And then the policeman was looking
at stuff, and then… ..and then we found a package that
had been delivered to Andrew that was actually still just inside,
downstairs. And I said to the policeman,
“What is that for?” And he said people use it
to harm themselves. And then the policeman got this call
on his walkie-talkie. And the message that he’d got was that they’d found a body
in Port Meadow. So they then asked for a photograph. And then, within about 20 minutes, the policeman told me
that he was dead. A student from Oxford University’s
Balliol College has been found dead at a local beauty spot. The area at Port Meadow was sealed
off for much of yesterday… I was sitting in the living room,
she called George in. And then she sat down
on this little bean bag, I was sat down on the sofa, and she said, and I remember
the words exactly, she said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, “but your brother isn’t alive
any more.” The worst part is imagining what you would say to him
and what he would say back. I mean, knowing that he’s not going
to be able to say those things. For me, that’s the worst. Andrew’s brothers, Ryan and George, are leaving to return to university. After Andrew died, one of the major
things that shifted in my whole view of the whole thing was, I should go
to university and everything I do at university should just be
the stuff that I enjoy. See you in… Christmas.
Uh-huh. A successful life isn’t a life where
you’re winning Nobel Prizes and getting hundreds of thousands
of pounds. A successful life is a life
you’re enjoying. Have a lovely year, and enjoy it. Enjoy Freshers. We’re trying to tell people
a little bit about the Stefan’s Socks
campaign today. Stefan used to fence in two pink
socks, and it was his trademark. We wear pink socks because it’s
our way of remembering Stefan and our way of raising money to make sure nothing like this
ever happens again. One of our students tragically died,
died by suicide. It started a massive campaign of
raising awareness for mental health, and it’s about knowing that it’s OK
to not be OK. I think Stefan was very much of the
mind-set that it wouldn’t be very blokey or manly or appropriate
to admit you’re depressed. She thought that she couldn’t
reach out to anyone else, because no-one would be there
for her. I just wish that she knew there were
so many people there who would have been there
for her in, like, two seconds. If you are going through depression,
you just need to tell somebody. I just wish I could talk to her
one more time. You know, look into her face and
see her looking back, really, you know, just living and breathing, even if it was just for
five minutes.