The Delicate Balance Found Between Addressing Needs Of Adult Students & Their Parents

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    Catherine Bedford killed herself after developing anorexia at college

    The parents of a troubled student who committed suicide are demanding a change in the rules which prevented their daughter's tutors from alerting them to her state of mind.
    Catherine Bedford, 22, developed anorexia while away from home at university and began missing lectures. Cleaners regularly found vomit in her room and she was also thought to be self-harming

    But her worried tutors did not inform her family because of the common policy among universities and colleges not to divulge "confidential information" to parents.
    It was only on the day that their daughter went missing from Bishop Burton college in Beverley, East Yorkshire, that Barry and Rosemary Bedford were informed of their concerns.

    But by then it was too late. Catherine's abandoned car was found later that day in a car park next to the Humber Bridge.

    Inside were a series of suicide notes to her family, friends and college staff.
    Her body was not found until two months later in reeds a few miles from the bridge

    Her parents believe she would still be alive if the college had informed them of her problems sooner.

    Nursery nurse Mrs Bedford, 47, said: "If you put the circumstances together that she was sick and missing lessons, something should have been said.
    "I can understand people wanting their privacy but if she's got anorexia they should be able to go to people who can do something.

    "If she says 'no' she is not being rational in what she is saying, so how can you take her word?"

    Hull Coroner's Court heard the student left the campus on December 19 last year, after a confrontation with a member of staff when she refused to leave her room for the Christmas holiday. Catherine, who was in the third year of a management degree, was reluctant to return to the family home in Rotherham.

    It is thought this was because a sleeveless bridesmaid's dress she was expected to try on for her 25-year-old sister Sarah's wedding would reveal her self-harm scars.

    Mr Bedford, 58, said at the time of her disappearance: "We think that she was ashamed that she would have to face her mother with these scars."
    Catherine was reported missing by the college when she failed to turn up for work at a nearby stables.

    Her mother drove to Beverley and made repeated calls to Catherine's mobile phone, which she had left in her car.

    Mrs Bedford finally heard it answered by the police officer who found her daughter's Rover.
    Catherine sent her college a text message shortly before she killed herself reminding staff they did not have permission to breach her confidence.

    At the inquest on Tuesday, Mr and Mrs Bedford discovered for the first time Catherine had been treated for anxiety after disappearing from a summer camp in America during a gap year.

    Catherine's friends described her as a highly-strung loner who rarely ate and often went jogging at 2am. Coroner Geoffrey Saul recorded a verdict of suicide.

    The college's principal Jeanette Dawson said that all student matters discussed with staff are treated with the "utmost discretion except under the most unusual circumstances or at the explicit request of the student".

    "This is always extremely difficult," she added. "We have to respect the rights of adult learners. Catherine was 22 and had her own rights.

    "There is a delicate balance to be found between addressing the needs of adult students and those of the parents.
    "Our thoughts are with Catherine's family at this time and we hope that now the inquest is over they can begin to rebuild their lives after this tragic event."

    by DAVID WILKES for the Daily Mirror
  2. I think that unless the student is near death, seriously harming herself, or suicide.. then they should keep the student's privacy just that - private.
  3. I firmly believe that all visible serious problems should be immediately reported to the family. My family is still furious at the fact that no one at my sister's high school ever reported any of what the children attending the school were doing to themselves. If they had, they probably would have saved a life. I have girls in my university classes with razor-slashed arms, the professors see them too no doubt, and I sure as hell think the school should notify the parents. I'm tired of the political BS. That student to them was someone's CHILD, who didn't have to die.
  4. ^^I agree with Neeya. I have experience of a friend with mental illness - though this person was behaving increasingly erratically the college did not contact the parents until the student completely 'lost it' and had to be arrested and taken to a mental hospital. Even then the parents may not have known it if not for the parents becoming concerned as they could not contact their son for a period of time.
  5. I'll take my hits, but I disagree. If the student is a legal adult, the university is under no obligation to contact the parents. Coping with change is part of growing up & becoming an adult.

    (For high school age & under, teachers are already required to report anything they suspect as abuse/neglect/self-harm, etc.)

    Not everyone has a positive relationship with their parents, and sometimes parents ADD to the instability.

    However, universities should probably look at reworking admission applications to include some sort of student/parent contract that gives the university permission to waive "privacy" issues in the event they discover that an adult student may (or is) inflict harm to self/others.

    Particularly if the parents are footing the university bill. I always think it's good to be proactive, especially if the parents are aware of any conditions/disorders that pre-exist when they send their kids off to college.
  6. My university had this policy too, and I don't really agree with it.

    I think privacy is one thing but when a student is causing himself/herself harm, then the univeristy must step in. I had a friend that got addicted to drugs in college. Never went to class, failed the vast majority of them & took years to graduate. His parents had no clue until it was too late. When they tried to get him help, it was too late and he took his own life.

    If the university had made that phone to say, "Hey, your son hasn't shown up to class-ever. Maybe you should talk to him." who knows what might have happened.

    No, I don't think universities should "rat" kids out for things like bad grades, but when there's a sign of real trouble, I think they have the obligation to make sure that student isn't self-destructing. 18 may technically be an adult, but we all know teenagers & early 20 somethings don't always make the best choices. Sometimes they need help and don't know how to get it.
  7. If they continuously found vomit in her room... It's about time to alert someone, if not her family at least some counsellor or a doctor.

  8. I totally agree with this. The School in this case, should of felt obligated to notify her parents.
  9. My Husband agrees with Junkenpo

    I guess the argument could be that the student could sue the School. ( Not in this particular case because the student died. )
  10. I have some feelings this way:

    What is actually the legal definition of 'adult'? (I don't know) AND, what is the difference between reaching the age of majority and legal drinking age?

    I know that it is illegal for people under 21 in the US to buy alcohol. This rule has to be there for some reason? My line of questioning may sound irrelevant, but please bear with me.

    IF a person under the age of 21 is not served alcohol under the assumption that they cannot be guaranteed to behave in a responsible, adult manner, why is every other aspect of their life free and independent - and parental involvement not encouraged - at a much younger age when they first go to college?
  11. Hi - your question is an excellent one. In the 1970's or there about the drinking age was raised to 21 by most if not all states. This was the result of the increasing number of deaths as the result of drinking and an attempt to reduce that number. There is no link between those laws and the laws that govern the age of majority and the laws that govern the right to give consent to sexual relations. They are all over the lot, particularly in the South. Some of this is based on biology - we know that the frontal lobe of adolescents does not fully mature until the late teenage years and some of it is based on the educational system - most people are 18 by the time they graduate from high school. Unfortunately, there really isn't any way to apply logic to all this - there are too many conflicting agendas that come into play in setting age limits. The control that the parents of this college girl did have was to take her out of school by stopping her tuition - after the age of 18 the only control parents have is financial.

    Just my opinion and thoughts.
  12. I also agree that the parents don't need to know. Lots of people have problems but end up pulling themselves back together. What's the parent supposed to do when they find out anyway? Worry from a distance? Not all parents have the means to travel to the college and babysit their adult son or daughter. If the student had been deemed to not be able to think clearly or have sound judgement, however, it's a different situation and parents should know.
  13. because the united states has a totally backward attitude toward drinking.

    i know i'm not in the majority here, but i'm going to say that i don't agree with this new rule. college students need to be treated like adults because they ARE. in some instances, parental involvement will not only not be helpful, but it may exacerbate the problem, and it's not the university's place to make that choice for someone that is considered a legal, independent adult.

    in college, your friends are the family you choose. all of my close friends and i are aware that if one of us is in trouble, the obligation falls on the rest of us to do something about it - we're the ones that would know whether or not it would be helpful to get our friend's parents involved, and that's just what we've done for each other in the past. ultimately, stuff like that is how you learn to be an adult and step up and take care of the people you care about.

    people will fall through the cracks, and it will be tragic, but that will happen for the rest of our lives, and eventually, we have to stand on our own.

    edited: i'd like to add that if someone is reasonably believed to be a danger to themselves or the people around them, the state has every right to give power of attorney to the next of kin, whether it be parents, a sibling, a spouse, etc. in America, this would have given the girl's parents the right to force her into treatment if the girl's friends or roommate had notified police that they thought she was going to take her own life. essentially, they could have had her 'committed.' there's no reason that the school would have had to intervene to get action taken.
  14. what prada has said is correct - each state sets its own drinking laws, but in the 70s, the federal government basically blackmailed all the states into raising it to 21 by threatening to withhold federal highway funds to those which did not. i believe Louisiana was the last state to switch.
  15. I think a waiver is an excellent idea.