by Dan Bean

ACADEMICS have paid tribute to two University of York students, who took their own lives.

Christopher Walsh, 21, and Daniel Pinfold, 23, died separately last year, and inquests into both deaths were held at New Earswick Folk Hall on Wednesday.

Mr Walsh, a second year student of social and political sciences, and was found hanged at a shared house in Lawrence Street last November.

The inquest heard Mr Walsh sought help from his GP and the university's Open Door team in the weeks before his death, following suicidal thoughts and an incident of self harm.

Dr Eleanor Brown, head of Derwent College said Mr Walsh was an active member of the college community, a committed member of the Derwent football club, and a great DJ, "loved at college events", and with "an enthusiastic and welcoming approach to his colleagues and prospective students" in his role as ambassador for the college.

Dr Brown said: "Chris will be deeply missed by his college, school and the wider University, and the heartfelt solidarity in which our community has come together to support each other and remember Chris is testament to his affable personality and his integration into the college and University.

"He was liked by people across years and friendship groups and was a pleasure to be around. We will all remember his smile with fondness. Our heartfelt condolences go to his family and friends."

Dr Simon Parker, director of the School of Social and Political Sciences, said Mr Walsh was "a much valued member of the school", and his academic supervisor Brian Loader described him as "an enthusiastic and perceptive member of the School of SPS who we counted among our very best students".

Two of Mr Walsh's housemates, Benjamin Burton and Harriet Crowder, told the inquest they found his body and tried to revive him in the early hours of November 17, and carried out CPR until paramedics arrived, but Mr Walsh died in hospital that afternoon.

Coroner Jonathan Leach said the cause of Mr Walsh's death was cerebral hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain, caused by hanging.

The inquest heard he had self-harmed following an argument between Mr Walsh and his then-girlfriend, but his mood had appeared to improve in the following weeks due in part to the prescription of antidepressants and a change in lifestyle, and doctors felt he was not at immediate risk.

Dr Joseph Fisher, Mr Walsh's GP, had prescribed Mr Walsh antidepressants and met him twice more, and said "his mental health and mood had improved considerably since I first saw him".

Tributes were also paid to Mr Pinfold, a "bright and passionate student", who was a Master’s student in Contemporary History and International Politics at the university, where he completed his BA in Politics in 2014.

Dr Henrice Altink, head of the department of history, said: "Daniel was passionate about his dissertation topic and enjoyed political debates and discussing the direction of the Labour Party. The Department is very sad to have lost such a bright and passionate student."

Professor Matthew Festenstein, of the department of politics, said: "Daniel was a very thoughtful and committed member of the university, and profoundly engaged with exploring and discussing contemporary politics. This is a terrible loss, and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

The inquest heard the deputy head of Alcuin College, Martin Crosby, arrived at his office at about 9.15am on September 2, to find a handwritten note had been pushed under his door.

That led Mr Crosby, a porter and two members of security to go to Mr Pinfold's room, where they found his body, along with a handwritten note declaring his intention to take his life, and a document about compassion in dying.

The inquest heard Mr Pinfold was receiving treatment for adult ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome, but had "seemed cheerful and positive" to his father on his birthday, days prior to his death.

A spokeswoman for the University of York said the deaths "had a profound impact on the whole academic community".

She said: "The wellbeing and happiness of all our students is of upmost importance and we will continue to work hard to ensure they are given all the help and support they need while at the University."

  • Emotional and psychological support is available through the university’s Open Door teams, by contacting The Samaritans on 116 123 or 01904 655888, or Papyrus on 01925 572444.