Another Student Suicide

I can see why a young man like Edward Senior would choose Swansea University.

Swansea’s website promises a nearly-ideal environment for students aspiring to careers in medical sciences and practices.

Swansea achieves highest rating for learning and teaching
“Swansea University has achieved a gold rating, the highest rating possible, in the national Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework.”

“Swansea ranked top university in Wales”
(Swansea University)

The trick, of course, is getting good grades in enough classes to graduate.

Being excluded from lectures wouldn’t help. Neither would wondering whether university brass would eventually investigate the allegation that resulted in exclusion, and what further punishments they’d impose.

I was angry when I read what happened to Edward Senior. I still am. That won’t help him, or anyone else. Certainly not me. Sharing what I think about his experience might.

Death and Lectures

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Mr Senior’s family said he had a ‘rare ability to light up any room with his wide smile, mop of blonde hair and special charm'”
(BBC News))

Swansea University student’s suicide after ‘WhatsApp mistake’
BBC News (July 2, 2018)

A medical student killed himself after a WhatsApp message about a romance with a classmate was shared on social media, an inquest heard..

“Newport Coroner’s Court heard Edward Senior’s private message about the ‘brief relationship’ was seen by hundreds of people.

“A complaint was made which led to Swansea University excluding him from lectures while it investigated….”

I’m not surprised that Edward Senior was feeling less than perky when he was blacklisted. Killing himself wasn’t the ideal coping mechanism. But it relieves whoever was deciding his fate the trouble of completing that task.

I don’t know how much fuss and bother Swansea’s faculty face when a student cracks under the pressure, with lethal consequences. There’s some paperwork, most likely. The same is probably true no matter what takes a student out of the school’s roster.

It’s not all bad news. A great many college and university students survive at least until graduation. Those who die first aren’t all suicide victims. Suicide isn’t even the leading cause of death for folks age 15 to 24. Not in America, anyway.

Unintentional injury was the number one killer 2016. Suicide ranked second, by a score of 23,984 to 7,366. (CDC, Centers for Disease Control, statistics)

“One Mistake”

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Aspiring doctor Edward Senior was described as caring and compassionate by family and friends”
(BBC News))

“…The 22-year-old’s body was found in a wood near his home in Monmouthshire.

“Senior coroner Wendy James said: ‘Despite having the support of a loving family, it was not enough for him to get through a stressful period in his life.

“‘Not knowing what the ramifications would be, he felt isolated and became overwhelmed.

‘It is not unusual for young people to make mistakes. But his biggest mistake was dwelling on that one mistake.’…”
(BBC News)

I don’t know who made the complaint or what prompted it.

Apparently Mr. Senior mentioned a brief romantic experience in an online community. What he posted was supposed to be part of a private conversation.

Someone else apparently shared what he said with others.

I see Mr. Senior’s experience as the information age equivalent of talking with friends at the corner bar, coffee shop, or whatever — and learning that what’s said in private doesn’t always stay private.

If I was British and upper crust, maybe I’d think of it in terms of talking with my fellow-gentlemen at our club. Or maybe not. I’m not British, not in America’s equivalent of English aristocracy and that’s another topic.

I’ve seen Mr. Senior’s post described several ways, some more colorful and derogatory than others. I haven’t read it, and so cannot offer an informed opinion. BBC News says he used Facebook’s WhatsApp. That’s likely enough. The site and the app are in common use.

Speculation and Loss

Details of Mr. Senior’s offense are not clear. Not to me, not based on what I’ve seen. Whatever it was involves his Facebook post and a brief “romantic” experience.

My imagination posted its own suggestions, inspired by that BBC piece and flotsam from my mind’s sump pit.

Those internal posts were really private, appearing only on my mind’s virtual desktop. Some may be more reasonable than others. I see them all as figments of imagination grown from fragments of fact. Including this selection —

Maybe Mr. Senior offended traditional values by crossing class lines. Or new traditional values by using politically incorrect words. Or violating a university policy regarding something: social activity at an improper time or place, using Facebook, whatever.

Again — they’re merely speculations. I don’t know the details. Only the immediate result: one dead student.

Whatever this “caring and compassionate” young man might have done won’t happen now. We’ve lost him, and whatever his actions would have added to humanity’s story.


I think suicide is a bad idea.

As a lifestyle or career decision, there’s no future in it.

That helped me decide against acting on my first suicidal impulse. So did recognizing my mulish stubbornness.

Outlasting the painful circumstances seemed unpleasant, but possible. Decades later, I still get the occasional self-destructive impulse. Dealing with them has gotten easier. But not easy, even now.

Practice doesn’t, I’ve found, make perfect. But it does help.


So does knowing a bit more about why suicide is a bad idea.

Human life is sacred. Yours, mine, everyone’s. It’s a gift from God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)

That’s why murder is a bad idea. I’d be taking someone’s God-given life. (Catechism, 22582317)

Killing myself would be murder, with me as the victim — making a bad decision worse. I’d be going directly to my particular judgment. No time to reconsider and repent, no time for anything. (Catechism, 10211022, 22802283)

Heaping abuse on suicide victims doesn’t strike me as a smart move either. I shouldn’t kill myself, but I shouldn’t give up hope for folks who do. Hope is a good idea. So is prayer:

“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”
(Catechism, 2283)

Besides, I’m nowhere near so virtuous or delusional that I feel like ignoring Matthew 6:1415 and 7:15. I’ve got quite enough trouble as it is, and that’s yet another topic:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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5 Responses to Another Student Suicide

  1. Melinda says:

    Such a tragedy. Perhaps educational institutions should begin considering the mental health of the accused before imposing discipline. Having grown up pre-social media, I consider myself quite blessed. I understand what true personal privacy is. It’s my policy to not post or email anything that I would not want known by the general public or my priest. Ha Fortunately or unfortunately, a sensitive conscience keeps my life relatively boring. My prayers for the family and Edward’s soul.

    • Amen.

      I remember when American homes were starting to see telephone service as normal: not something one hears about but doesn’t experience.

      A mental picture of confidentiality – which I think is distinct from today’s notion of ‘privacy’ as a sort of anonymity – from my youth works for me. If I’ve got something personal or private to say, I don’t write it on the back of a postcard. Technology changes, that sort of common sense, I think, doesn’t. 🙂

      And amen.

  2. Manny says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Edward. It just goes to show how fragile young adults are. May the Lord have mercy on his soul and embrace him for eternity.

  3. Austin says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Edward’s family. It’s such a tragedy.

Thanks for taking time to comment!