Day 522


Andrew Kirkman was the same age as Saagar. He was a second year physics and philosophy student at Oxford. He ended his life in December 2013. Earlier that week he had seen the college doctor who had prescribed antidepressants for him. His parents had no knowledge of his illness.

Andrew’s mother, Wendy Kirkman has been actively campaigning for a directive that makes it possible for university doctors to inform parents of their children’s mental illness if they are at all concerned. She hopes this would save the lives of other students. “People seem to be frozen into inaction by the fear of disclosing information to the parents of students who are over 18, when they have always had the legal right and perhaps obligation to do so anyway.”

Dr Geoff Payne has issued new guidelines advising university doctors to contact parents if concerned for a students’ mental health.

The argument against this guideline is that merely telling the parents doesn’t fix the problem. That is true. However parents can provide additional support. Close monitoring of such cases and intensive talking therapies also have a very important role. Non-disclosure by itself is not a problem but it does translate to further lack of support in a system that has long waiting lists and inadequate capacity to provide optimal care for patients in need.

The other argument against it is student’s right to privacy.
Can the right to privacy be more important than the right to life?

2 thoughts on “Day 522

  1. Some people’s parents wouldn’t help though, or would do more harm than good…I was nineteen when my partner first dragged me to the GP; I was diagnosed with MDD and prescribed anti-depressants. If the GP had automatically contacted my parents all hell would have broken loose. My parents would have been furious and most certainly wouldn’t have helped.

    I agree something more needs to be done, and I even agree that in a lot of cases telling family might help…but I think it needs to be done with care.


  2. Thank you for that. It is true. It is a decision that should ideally be taken in consultation with the patient keeping their best interest in mind. I am biased of course.
    I am glad you had a sensible and caring partner.
    Love and best wishes, S. xxx


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