Student, 19, took his own life after isolating at uni three weeks into degree

·6-min read
Finn Kitson, 19, took his own life in his university halls of residence after being put into isolation because a flatmate tested positive for COVID. (Reach)
Finn Kitson, 19, took his own life in his university halls of residence after being put into isolation because a flatmate tested positive for COVID. (Reach)

A university fresher took his own life after having to isolate in halls of residence due to COVID just three weeks into his degree, an inquest has heard.

Finn Kitson, 19, was less than a month into his degree at the University of Manchester when he took his own life in 2020.

The teenager who was studying politics and international relations, had been told to isolate to 14 days after one of the seven other students in his flat at Fallowfield halls of residence contracted coronavirus in September 2020.

He was found dead in his room by security staff on 8 October that year - with just two days of isolation remaining.

A university fresher who struggled with mental health problems hanged himself in his halls of residence after he was told to isolate amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Manchester, an inquest heard.
Finn Kitson, 19, was three weeks into a politics and international relations degree at the University of Manchester when he took his own life at halls of residence in Fallowfield in 2020.
The teenager, described by his parents as 'beautiful and brilliant', had been told to isolate after one of the seven other students in his flat contracted Covid-19 in September 2020 when virus numbers in Manchester were beginning to rise sharply following the end of the first national lockdown.
Finn was three weeks into his degree at the University of Manchester when he died in October 2020. (Reach)

An inquest in Manchester heard that Kitson, from Cambridge, had been a "normal happy-go-lucky boy" but started to suffer from anxiety when he was 14 or 15 and was prescribed the antidepressant fluoxetine when he was about 17.

After passing his A-levels he was accepted at the University of Manchester but deferred his place to go travelling with three friends through south east Asia, the inquest was told.

That trip was cut short by the pandemic and Kitson had to return to the UK in March 2020 as the nation went into lockdown.

His mother Jane Denney told the inquest: "It was an awful time for him because he was going straight into a lockdown. He had expectations for this being a gap year but of course it all got cut short.

"He came back not to be able to do anything. He couldn't get a job because there was no jobs. It was quite difficult when he came back."

Finn Kitson had been in isolation at his halls of resident at Manchester University. (Reach)
Finn Kitson had been in isolation at his halls of resident at Manchester University. (Reach)

Read more: COVID travel tests to be scrapped for double jabbed arrivals in time for half term

Asked about her son's mood, she said he was angry at not being able to do what he planned to do, and was also "quite emotional" that a two-year relationship with a girl had come to an end, telling his mother: "I can't live without her - I don't know what I'm going to do".

She said while he was upset, she didn't think it was something he could not overcome and he remained on good terms with the girl.

Kitson also stopped taking his medication, saying he didn't think it was doing anything, and she noticed he was also drinking more, occasionally 'helping himself' to beer and wine from the fridge that he would take to his room.

On 17 September that year, she drove her son to Manchester to start university, where he thought he would be attending lectures and tutorials in person.

"When he first arrived, he seemed absolutely fine because he had met up with his friends and they were exploring and going out as much as they could. But then a girl in his flat tested positive for COVID and they went into lockdown," she told the inquest, and said her son "quickly realised" his education would continue "remotely".

She said she received a video message from her son on 6 October when he asked for some items and politics books to be sent to him.

But when she tried to contact him the following day and on 8 October without success, she contacted the university concerned about him and he was found dead.

Watch: Students pull down fences after being 'caged in'

A post mortem examination concluded Kitson had died from hanging. He had traces of diazepam in his system but there was no evidence of excessive use of drugs or alcohol, the inquest was told.

The inquest heard that he had sent his ex-girlfriend a song at about 1.30am on 7 October, but his mother said that wasn't unusual as they had "communicated through song" for years.

Dr Simon Merrywest, director of student experience at the University of Manchester, told the inquest that despite the nation emerging from national lockdown earlier in 2020, local restrictions had remained in Manchester in the autumn.

The university was not under any "specific restrictions" and had planned to teach face-to-face but as infection rates rose in the city, it was decided that from 7 October contact with students would be reduced "as much as possible" for a brief period to bring numbers back down.

By 23 October formal restrictions were imposed in Greater Manchester, he said, which meant close contacts of any student who tested positive for COVID had to isolate for 14 days and were only allowed outside for one specified period and location each day.

He said pastoral support was offered to students, both from staff at halls of residence and academic advisers, but admitted there was no evidence Finn accessed such services.

The inquest heard Kitson had logged into one Zoom lecture on 30 September and there was evidence he had left his flat during isolation but it was not clear how many times. His swipe card had been used to exit the apartment on 6 October.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  An electronic sign warns Mancunians that the Greater Manchester area is now under Tier-3 Covid-19 restrictions on October 23, 2020 in Manchester, England. Greater Manchester moved into the government's tier 3, high coronavirus alert level, at midnight forcing the closure of pubs not serving substantial meals. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Greater Manchester was placed under a local lockdown as part of Tier-3 COVID restrictions on 23 October, 2020. (Getty)

Recording a verdict of suicide, Coroner Zak Golombek noted that there had been previous episodes of 'self-harm'.

He told Kitson's parents: "From what I have heard, he was lovely and intelligent and clearly someone who was conscious of the world around him."

He concluded: "I'm satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Finn both took his own life and intended to do so when he hanged himself on 8 October."

The coroner said he would be writing to UCAS to express concern that a box that allows students to tick whether they have 'disability or special needs' on their application form did not stipulate that that encompassed mental health need.

The inquest heard that it is estimated about half of students with mental health problems do not disclose this to universities.

Dr Merrywest said the university had also written to UCAS and said its mental health services had been enhanced since 2020, with students able to access support via an app or on the phone 24-hours-a-day.

In a statement after the hearing, Kitson's parents said: "Finn was a beautiful and brilliant young man and his family miss him desperately.

"We are very pleased that this inquest has shone a spotlight on mental health provisions in universities. We welcome the the coroner's prevention of future deaths report on this very important issue."

For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org

Watch: How can I improve my mental health?

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