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 

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 

New mental health charity hopes to help young people in Dundee

Brook Marshall started Feeling Strong after seeing “gaps” in mental health treatment.


Link to Courier article here