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Gifted University of Sheffield student with ‘extremely bright future’ found hanged after suffering anxiety over degree

A gifted and caring student with an ‘extremely bright future’ was found hanged in Sheffield after suffering severe anxiety about his degree, an inquest heard.

Rory Shanahan was studying engineering and computer science at the University of Sheffield and had been living in the city, which friends and family said he loved, for around four years.

Rory at a HackSheffield Society computer programming event, where his parents said he had been in his element

Rory at a HackSheffield Society computer programming event, where his parents said he had been in his element

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But Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard how despite being ‘extremely intelligent’ the 22-year-old from Oxford was a ‘perfectionist’ who worried that his best was not good enough.

He struggled so badly with anxiety that he took a year-long break from his course, during which he remained in Sheffield doing paid work at the university.

But he remained determined to complete his degree, which he was just three months from finishing.

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He was found hanged in the stairwell of the student flats where he lived above Vittles Cafe on Glossop Road, in Broomhill, on February 20 this year, just days after resuming his studies.

A post-mortem examination also found he had lethal levels of morphine in his body.

The inquest, which concluded yesterday, heard how Rory had been seeing a psychologist for a year and appeared to be making progress though he still struggled with anxiety.

READ MORE: Sheffield coroner calls for 'lessons to be learned' in city's mental health services after girl, 16, took her own life

He had also seen a GP at the university a few weeks before his death, who had passed him fit to return to his studies and prescribed him medication for depression and anxiety.

Rory's parents Jacquie and Mark Shanahan told how he had enjoyed his life in Sheffield, where he was a member of the debating society and had organised a hustings ahead of the 2017 general election.

“He was someone who cared deeply about the world. He was vegetarian, humanist and was heavily involved in the Effective Altruism movement in Sheffield,” said Mark.

They did not blame the university for his death but felt it highlighted the need for better mental health support at universities.

“We think there’s a gap between the NHS support and where the universities pick up, and we feel this needs to be addressed more holistically with a joined-up approach.”

One of their biggest concerns was how although Rory had been told about the support available it was up to him to reach out and access that help, which they felt someone struggling with anxiety or depression was less likely to do.

His parents also told how they endured an agonising six-month wait to read the ‘kind’ words he had left for family and friends on a USB stick, as police had been unable to access the file.

The inquest heard from friends of Rory who described him as a ‘friendly and sociable’ young man who was clearly ‘very clever’ but ‘doubted his abilities’.

Coroner David Urpeth, who recorded a conclusion of suicide, said Rory had been ‘extremely intelligent’, with an ‘extremely bright future ahead of him’.

Friends and family donated more than £10,000 in Rory’s memory, which will be split between the mental health charity Student Minds and Effective Altruism.

If you would like to speak to someone about what you're going through, you can call Samaritans at any time on 116 123, or visit www.samaritans.org.

You can also get support from Student Minds at www.studentminds.org.uk.