Mathematics professor at the University of Surrey, 54, hanged himself at home struggling with WFH and getting away from his students and peers
- Professor Stephen Gourley of the University of Surrey hanged himself an inquest
- He was pronounced dead on September 15, 2020 at his home in Liss, Hampshire
- His sister-in-law and a neighbor gained access to his house and discovered him
- For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritan branch. See www.samaritans.org for details
A ‘beloved’ professor at the University of Surrey has taken his own life after struggling with remote work and getting away from his students and peers, a court investigation found.
Professor Stephen Gourley, 54, was forced to work from his home in Liss, Hampshire due to the pandemic.
An inquest into his death heard from his brother who said he struggled with the isolation and remote work caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but had not revealed the scale of his struggle.
Mark Gourley said in Portsmouth Coroner’s Court yesterday, “Hey [Prof. Gourley] said he was struggling with the whole remote work situation and the corona virus.
University of Surrey Professor Stephen Gourley, 54, (pictured) took his life after struggling with remote work and getting away from his students and colleagues.
“Especially from a work point of view, he set himself very high standards and perhaps he could not meet those high standards.”
He added: “He was well aware of that [the pandemic] affected his ability to do his job. ‘
Professor Gourley was pronounced dead at his home on September 15, 2020 after his family was unable to contact him.
His sister-in-law, Caroline, and a neighbor gained access to the property around 8:45 PM and found him hanged.
Mark Gourley and his wife had also driven to the house that night.
Senior coroner Christopher Wilkinson concluded that Prof. Gourley intended to take his own life, but said it was not possible to know what was going through his mind at the time.
Mr. Wilkinson also noted that Prof. Gourley was not known to any mental health authorities and that his medical records did not cover mental health problems.
According to the University of Surrey website, Prof. Gourley had worked for 27 years in the Mathematics Department on the Guildford campus.
He entered the service after receiving an MA in Mathematics from Oxford University and then completed his PhD in Bath in 1993, starting his teaching career in Surrey that same year.
The inquest revealed that Prof. Gourley was a highly respected and popular member of the university team, highly regarded by both his colleagues and students for his talent and skill and humorous, personal character.
An inquest into his death in Portsmouth District Court heard from his brother who said he struggled with the isolation and remote working as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but had not revealed the scale of his struggle. Pictured: The University of Surrey, where Professor Gourley had worked
Speaking at the hearing, Professor Tom Bridges, a colleague of Prof. Gourley from the Mathematics Department, said: ‘I have the utmost respect for him and I think the hardest part is for me to understand how we missed some of the problems. ‘
Professor Bridges also described his colleague as ‘internationally known for his success in his work’.
During the inquest, Mr. Wilkinson noted that Professor Gourley missed the “real buzz” of interacting with his colleagues and students during the pandemic.
He said, “Once you’ve been involved in, specifically, a university life where you are surrounded by individuals, it becomes very difficult to let that subtract from you.”
He added: ‘We have heard Professor Gourley described as a leader in his field.
‘Not only a well-respected professor, but also a well-respected teacher and a much-loved part of the academic community at the University of Surrey, and clearly a much-loved, respected and cared-for member of the Gourley family who is clearly missed.’
A conclusion of suicide was recorded by the coroner. Mark Gourley thanked the court for her support and sympathy, and the university for her support since his brother’s death.
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritan branch. See www.samaritans.org for details.
How has lockdown affected Britain’s depression rates?
Last year, government research found that depression rates in Britain had doubled between the start of the pandemic and August 2020.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 9.7 percent of adults had some form of depression between July 2019 and March 2020.
But when the same group of people was reassessed in June, that figure had jumped to 19.2 percent – nearly one in five.
The data showed that young women were most affected by the virus and the government’s coronavirus lockout.
Statisticians also found that depression rates soared among Britons who could not afford unexpected costs and the disabled.
The ONS survey examined the responses of the same 3,500 British adults both before and during the pandemic.
Researchers also examined levels of depression – which are classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
One in eight adults developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while the others were already affected.
84 percent of people who experienced some form of depression mentioned stress and anxiety affecting their well-being.
And 42 percent said their relationships were compromised.
Of those who experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, 62 percent said they felt lonely ‘often or always’.
In comparison, the rate was four times lower (15 percent) for people with no or mild depressive symptoms.
According to the data, only 3.5 percent of Britons saw an improvement in their symptoms over the same period.