Mum of Dundee student who took his own life speaks about her ‘gentle’ son

Mum of Dundee student who took his own life speaks about her ‘gentle’ son

In early 2018 the friends and family of Conor Steel were left heartbroken when they learned the 24-year-old had taken his own life.

The Abertay University gaming student had been racked with severe depression for most of his adolescence and adult life.

But despite this it still came as a massive shock to those who knew him when he was found by a friend in his student accommodation in Dundee.

Now his mum, Frances Beck and university friends, are working hard in his name to ensure that no other young person feels so alone again that they feel there is no other way out.

In particular the city charity Feeling Strong, run exclusively by young people for young people is launching its Mind, Body and Goal campaign on January 2nd.

Although aimed at every young person it will be focusing particularly on boys and young men, because they are generally speaking less likely to be open about their mental health problems.

Stephanie Carney, a fourth year student at Abertay, and close friend of Conor is Feeling Strong’s campaign and lobbying lead.

Stephanie Carney is behind a mental health support group for students at Abertay.

The 23-year-old psychology and counselling student said: “Conor’s death was dreadful.

“It left us all heartbroken. It was at that time that his mum and I decided to do everything we could to provide support for other young people.

“We didn’t know how to go about it initially but in November last year  Feeling Strong was developed, led by Brook Marshall.

“We have been involved with many young people ever since and although we couldn’t provide counselling we point people in the right direction.”

Stephanie added: “It’s a very sad fact that young men are much less likely than young women to speak about their mental health worries.

“Our latest campaign is aimed at getting the message across the boys that it is okay to ask for help.

“Conor had tried to ask for help. He did go to the doctor but he was just given medication.

“What he really needed was someone to  listen to him.”

Conor’s mum, Frances, said that while she had been aware that her son had gone through many difficult times with depression while growing up she believed that when he came to Dundee to study gaming he had really turned a corner and was happy and felt at home in the city.

“His course was going well and he had made a lot of good, like-minded friends.

“He was the happiest I had ever seen him.”

Frances said that when Conor was at  school he was an easy target for bullies with his gentle nature, red hair and glasses.

He struggled through his primary years  and things became even worse when he went to secondary  school in his hometown in Stewarton in Ayrshire.

While he was in Dundee Conor went to the doctor to talk about his worries.

She said: “He was given medication and when that didn’t work he was given more stronger medication and basically sent away and told to get on with it.

“I have no doubt Conor would have benefited from being educated about mental health and how to effectively cope with that stress.

“His story could have been so very different if he’d had that support at that key stage of his life.

“Had his mental health problems been prevented or had he been given targeted early intervention support, it’s highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life.”

She added: “It’s important for schools to involve children and young people in leading their peers in mental health programmes to encourage them to support each other and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Schools should also embed a system of regularly measuring the levels of wellbeing of the whole school community to identify problems at an early stage.

“Support should be provided by mental health support workers who work within each school community.

“Heartbreakingly, none of this will bring back my son, but it will go a long way in ensuring that the lives of other young people are not so tragically ended.”


Link to Evening Telegraph article here 

Seek help for mental health issues, urges Abertay graduate

Seek help for mental health issues, urges Abertay graduate

A former Abertay University student has urged people struggling with mental health issues to speak out this Christmas after support given to her helped her graduate.

Laura Jackson graduated last month with a Masters in International Human Resource Management.

It was a proud achievement for the 23 year-old, who says it wouldn’t have happened without the support provided by Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor and Student Services team throughout her studies.

“A few years ago, I was at a really low point in my life. I had just started a business degree in Glasgow but, due to health and mental health issues, I felt so isolated that I dropped out after only a few weeks and had to go back to living with my mum,” she said.

“If you’d told me then that I’d soon be graduating with a Masters with Distinction, I would never have believed you.”

Throughout her three years at Abertay – two completing a BA in Business Management, and one at Masters level – Laura attended regular sessions with its mental health advisor David Cameron.

“Because I’d had a few months out after leaving Glasgow, when I started at Abertay I wanted to see what was available to help support my studies,” she said.

“The Advisory Service not only provided me with practical resources, including a study plan and a laptop with special dyslexia software that helped with my coursework but, because I’d informed them I had been diagnosed with anxiety, they also referred me to David.”

This ongoing support ended up being key to Laura’s progression through her degree as she engaged with the service when she felt overwhelmed juggling coursework deadlines, a part-time job and a spate of health issues, including an underactive thyroid and learning difficulties dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia.

“There were so many times, when things were tough and my mental health was suffering, that I was close to giving up,” she said.

“Knowing that support was there and available was what kept me going. Some of my friends have mental health issues of their own which meant they weren’t always able to help when I needed them. David was a constant.”

Following Graduation, Laura has moved back to Glasgow and is currently an intern at a women-only HR practice, while she thinks about her next move.

By sharing her story, Laura hopes she can help inspire others to keep going, even when mental health issues try to stand in their way.

Laura said: “My advice to anyone out there who feels like I did is to not put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Speak to someone, get a study plan and let people help you. You’re not letting anyone down by focusing on yourself now and again.”

Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor, David Cameron, said: “I am pleased I have been able to contribute a little and help Laura. She had a lot to cope with, both with her physical health and mental health, therefore her achievements deserve great credit.”

A number of organisations will be available over the festive period for those seeking support or help:

Breathing Space Scotland – provides telephone counselling. Open: Weekdays – Monday to Thursday 6pm to 2am; Weekend -Friday 6pm to Monday 6am. Their phone number is 0800 83 85 87.

Insights Counselling – a  counselling services that provides confidential, non-judgemental, 1-2-1 counselling by appointment. For further details you can phone 01382-305706 or visit them online.

Samaritans – provides a 24/7, 365 day a year telephone service – Their phone number is 116 123  or you can email

Dundee youngsters given inspirational talk by Scots billionaire Sir Tom Hunter at policy-shaping event

Sir Tom Hunter speaks to youngsters at Abertay University


Link to Courier article here 

Support offered after student, 24, found dead in Dundee halls of residence

An Abertay University student has been found dead in a halls of residence in the city.

Police were called to an apartment in Parker House near to Parker Street following the death of a man.

Police Scotland advised there was “no suspicious circumstances” following the death.

Staff working within the student accommodation declined to comment on  the incident that is understood to have left a number of students “shaken”.

The housing complex caters for both Dundee University and Abertay University students.

A number of students residing in the complex were unaware of the incident that happened last Thursday.

A spokesman from Abertay University advised that they were liaising with the family of the male whist offering support to students affected by the incident.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We can confirm that it attended at a student residence in Dundee on February 15 in connection with the death of a 24-year-old man.

“There were no suspicious circumstances, and a report was sent to the procurator fiscal.”

A spokesman for Abertay University said: “We can confirm an Abertay University student was sadly found dead at a student residence on Thursday.

“Our Student Services team is liaising with the family and additional support is being offered to all students at this time.”



Link to Evening Telegraph article here