A bereaved mum has dedicated her life to fighting for change after the death of her 20-year-old daughter who took her life while studying at university.
Hilary Grime had her world turned on its axis in June 2021 when her “passionate, enthusiastic and caring” daughter Phoebe took her life after moving over 300 miles away from home to study philosophy.
Phoebe had been struggling with anxiety since moving away to study, however had big dreams for her life post-graduation. Speaking about her daughter, Hilary describes Phoebe as someone who “cared about things deeply”.
“Phoebe was really energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about so many things,” Hilary says. “She cared about people, sport, the environment; she was a vegetarian, she’d insist that we used the washing powder sheets and everything had to be eco-friendly and sustainable.
“She was just so kind and giving. She was known as the person that would help her friends. They would come to her at the student house, and after she died, they told me they considered her to be the mother of the house. She was the one that was caring and worrying about everybody.”
Following her death, Hilary explains she was exposed to various information through the inquest process that highlighted the severity of her daughter’s suffering. This included a previous plan to end her life which she had made six months earlier and the significance of her mental health struggles – none of which Hilary was informed about.
“After Phoebe died and you have the inquest, you’re able to access a lot of information and the more information that the university sent us, the more I couldn’t believe it,” Hilary explains. “I couldn’t believe what they knew about Phoebe that I didn’t know as her mother. I was given a very detailed mental health timeline which was around 98 pages – she’d only been at the university a year and a half.
“The whole thing was absolutely devastating, and I just thought there is no way this can happen again.”
After the inquest concluded, Hilary felt compelled to do something – to make change. She began researching the legal obligations educators – specifically universities – have when it comes to caring for students and made contact with families who had gone through similar situations with their own young people.
She discovered the LEARN Network, a group made up of bereaved families who are actively campaigning for student safety at universities. Hilary knew she had to join forces and drive this mission forward.
Together, Hilary and the LEARN Network are asking the public to sign their petition which aims to “create a legal duty of care so that there is a tightly focused legal framework supporting students in academic and support services every step of their student journey”.
Like Hilary, the other members of the group all passionately believe that their children could have been saved and their death could have been prevented.
Shortly before her passing, Phoebe had told her mum she had signed up to be an organ donor and felt extremely passionately about giving others a better chance in life.
“We had a conversation about it, and she said to me ‘if I’m not here, why would I not give my organs and save other people?’ – and since she died, some of the six people whose lives she has saved through her donations have all written me letters to thank her and they’re still alive today.
“Because of this, I feel very strongly about carrying on. I’ve always told my children I’d do anything for them, and I’d do anything for her in life and in death. This is what she’d want me to do – continue her legacy by saving more lives.”
Alongside her full-time job as the Director of The Wall Lighting Company, Hilary now dedicates every other minute of the day to securing signatures and raising awareness for the shared cause of the LEARN Network. Their petition draws to a close on 19 March, however Hilary refuses to stop until change is made.