Mother says university failed in their duty of care over son's suicide

Mother says university failed in their duty of care after her computer science student son killed himself in halls days after telling wellbeing service that he was suicidal

  • Charlie Laney, 25, took his own life in his second year at  Aberystwyth University
  • His mother discovered he had told support services about suicidal thoughts
  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or go to 

A mother has described her agony at learning that her son had taken his own life while at university, just days after telling support staff he was having suicidal thoughts.

Emma Laney’s 25-year-old son Charlie stopped replying to her text messages while at Aberystwyth.

After assuming Charlie was simply busy with his coursework, she became increasingly concerned for his welfare in early February this year. 

Ms Laney said: ‘I couldn’t shake it. I’d left him a message a couple of days earlier telling him I was going to contact the university if he didn’t reply and it got to Friday afternoon when I just had the overwhelming sense that something really bad had happened. 

‘I called Charlie’s dad and asked him to phone the university.’

Charlie Laney, 25, tragically took his own life while in his second year at Aberystwyth University

The student had gone to A&E and told university support services he was having suicidal thoughts before he died 

That phone call confirmed Emma’s worst fears. Charlie had taken his own life in his accommodation at University.

Days earlier, the second year student had admitted himself to A&E due to his mental health before attending a counselling session with the university’s wellbeing service, where he revealed he was feeling suicidal. 

However, none of this was told to Charlie’s family until after his body was discovered – and even now they are searching for answers about the circumstances surrounding his death.

While the university maintains that it stayed in contact with Charlie throughout the year, Ms Laney believes Aberystwyth’s wellbeing services failed in their duty of care to Charlie by not acting quickly enough. 

She is now campaigning for improvements to be made to services across the country in honour of her ‘intelligent, kind and gentle’ son.

She said: ‘Charlie was incredible. An amazing big brother to his siblings Max and Angel, great fun to be around and so intelligent – almost too clever for his own good sometimes! 

‘He was so kind and gentle and had such a witty, dry sense of humour. He was the artistic type but also very academic with an eagerness to learn, always with his nose in a book. In fact, he could read one for hours and absorb its contents right away.

‘But he was ambitious too and after leaving school, he lived in China for a couple of years, teaching English. He travelled all around Asia which he loved and the children loved him too. I’ve received messages since Charlie’s death on behalf of some of his pupils out there and they were all devastated. They had wanted him to come back and see them.’

After Charlie began his second year at university, his mother began to notice a change in his behaviour, as he became more withdrawn over the Christmas period.

Charlie’s mother said she had noticed a change in his behaviour in the months before he died

She said: ‘He had this project that he was working on and it was always on his mind. He was so focused on getting that done and would always hurry back to his room to keep working on it.

‘He went back to Aberystwyth shortly after New Year and I asked him to let me know that he got there safely. In the end, he didn’t, but I knew he was exhausted, it’s a long train journey and he would want to be cracking on with this project again. So I gave him a bit of space but he would keep me hanging on the few messages that I sent and that lasted for two weeks.

‘After all that time, he did finally get back to me and explained he was just feeling a little bit low. 

‘I told him to call me and we could talk it through and I ended up leaving him a message on a Wednesday evening. 

‘Two days later his body was discovered.’

Following Charlie’s tragic death, Ms Laney met with university officials, which she said left her feeling ‘really insulted’ after being met with a ‘condescending tone and a questionable timeline of events’.

She said: ‘Nothing seemed to add up and they got on the defensive whenever I questioned whether they knew about his hospital visit and things like that.’ 

‘It didn’t give me confidence at all. I left there feeling really insulted actually.

‘If they just held their hands up, acknowledged that there may have been a few mistakes made and pledged to get to the bottom of it, then I would have understood. But instead it felt like there were missed opportunities they didn’t want to talk about’.

‘It breaks my heart knowing Charlie took himself to hospital that night,’ she added. ‘He was a private and proud person and I know that would have taken a lot for him to have done that. He was crying out for help, clearly. I just wish we could have known at the time – it could have all been so different’.

The Charlie Asked For Help campaign, started in his memory, aims to make sure students get the help they need while struggling with their mental health.

An inquest will be held into Charlie’s death later this year.  

Ms Laney said: ‘Charlie asked for help and he didn’t get it. Sadly, it’s too late for him but we are going to keep making noise and push for changes to stop the same thing happening to other students. If we can do that, then my son’s death has not been for nothing.’

An Aberystwyth University spokesperson said: ‘Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Charlie’s friends and family at such an extremely difficult time. Our student support team has been in close contact with, and providing support to, those affected by this tragedy.

‘While we cannot go into individual circumstances, our Student Wellbeing team were in contact with Charlie throughout the 22/23 academic year, with the aim of providing direct support as well as linking to statutory NHS health and mental health services where appropriate.

‘As a university, we offer extensive welfare services. Listening and acting on feedback from our students is very important to us. We continuously review our processes and update our practices, including drawing on external advice and evolving best practice, to ensure that we are giving our students the best support possible.

‘We have recently been developing our provision in light of wider sector developments in this area and we remain in discussion with Charlie’s friends and family to ensure that all relevant circumstances receive the fullest possible consideration.’

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or go to 

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