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How Sussex university led the way in student support | Letters



My heart goes out to the parents of Natasha Abrahart, who lost a cherished and gifted child (Bristol University found guilty of failings over death of student, 20 May). The student health service model, established by the late Dr Anthony Ryle at the University of Sussex, where I worked in the early 1970s, may be worth revisiting in the endeavour to meet the challenges highlighted by Richard Adams (UK universities urged to boost mental health support after student death, 20 May).

Ryle had the vision to create a unit where all clinicians were supported in psychotherapeutic work, development and training, and, crucially, where there were systems in place ensuring liaison with the teaching faculty. Each doctor liaised directly with the pastoral heads of the schools of study, known as sub-deans.

The aim was to air concerns regarding students, whose needs and progress could then be addressed, if necessary through the central students’ progress committee, with representation from the student health service that delivered general medical care and psychological support through daily surgeries and psychotherapeutic assessments.


There were no waiting lists to speak of. The university had chosen to invest in this platinum-standard resource. Many of the staff team later went on to a career in mental health, which for me was in child psychiatry.
Patricia Rashbrook
Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist

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