THE “lovely and kind” son of an Indian politician took his life after a seven-year battle with depression, an inquest heard.
Shubamso Pul was found in his room at the University of Sussex’s Falmer Campus on February 8 this year.
Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley ruled that the 20-year-old’s immediate cause of death was cardiorespiratory arrest due to plastic bag suffocation during an inquest at Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton,
Media outlets in India reported that Shubamso was the son of Kalikho Pul, the former chief minister of Arunachal pradesh – a state in north east India.
His father also took his own life, at a hotel in India in 2016.
Shubamso was studying social sciences during a foundation year at the University of Sussex when his body was found in his locked room at the Lewes Court halls, the inquest heard.
Friends said Shubamso was a shy person but had seemed to “come out of his shell” in the weeks before his death.
This included joining them on a night out and having two small tattoos he had always said he wanted but had been too nervous to get – too bands around one of his fingers and his star sign placed discretely behind his ear.
But on February 10, flatmates raised concerns for Shubamso’s welfare after seeing the student had not been active on his phone for two days and noticing his bedroom door was locked – something he only did when he went out.
Shubamso had last sent a message to one of his friends in the early hours of Saturday, February 8.
Campus security were called at 3.36pm and entered the room where they found the student lying on the floor, unresponsive.
He was wearing headphones attached to a phone which had run out of battery, suggesting he may have been listening to music at the time of his death – with friends saying he could frequently be found listening to his favourite songs.
“He looked incredibly peaceful,” Miss Hamilton-Deeley told flatmates attending the inquest, recording that it was likely he had died on the morning of Friday, February 8.
The ambulance service was contacted and rushed to the scene, arriving within ten minutes, but crews soon discovered Shubamso had been “dead for some time”.
He had left what appeared to be a suicide note written in a small notebook on a nearby desk in which he left a message to his flatmates – with whom he shared a communal kitchen and living space at the university accommodation.
Speaking at the inquest, one flatmate said that when they had all moved into the halls together last year Shubamso had been “quite quiet and very shy” adding that he “didn’t introduce himself at first”.
But she said all of the housemates had since grown very close, doing puzzles and playing games together as a group and placing a deposit on a house which they planned to rent together the following academic year.
In the note, Shubamso “apologises to everybody and asks us to respect his privacy,” Miss Hamilton-Deeley said.
“He says the decision he has made is not related to any specific situation, nor is it anyone’s fault, what has happened.
“He says he wanted to thank everybody for their support and wanted to wish his friends luck and happiness in the future.”
Later in the letter, he wrote: “I don’t like being alone, but I also want to be alone.”
His close friend and flatmate Matilda Neil, 21, paid tribute to Shubamso, saying: “He was lovely and kind, and always put other people before himself.
“He was always willing to learn and try new things.
“He had so many friends and was so loved by so many people.
“Things at university won’t be the same without him, but he will always be here in everything that we do.”
During the inquest into his death, Miss Hamilton-Deeley had queried whether exam stress might have had a negative effect on Shubamso’s mental health as he had just completed a number of assignments.
Representatives at the university said he had been performing well on his social sciences course, but had not turned in one of the last assignments before his death.
His attendance was also recorded as having dropped off in some modules.
Miss Hamilton-Deeley noted this alongside his more outgoing nature in his final weeks, saying in past suicide cases people had been described as seeming “better than ever” in the weeks before their death.
“Sometimes a turning point has been reached because the person has made a decision,” she said, later adding, “It rather seems as though he made a decision in those weeks.
Flatmates said they had failed modules on their courses as they came to terms with their friend’s death, and said though they were given the opportunity to retake the assessments in the summer there “was not much support”.
Addressing representatives from the university who attended the inquest, Miss Hamilton-Deeley said: “I know you try to put in (all the) support that you can and I know it has improved significantly from a few years ago.
“But perhaps we don’t know the full impact of death. It kicks you to the other side of the pitch and it can be quite difficult to get back into play again.”
She continued: “I think the university has done a huge amount (to improve support services).
“I can think back to just a few years ago, the experience might have been quite different.”
Shubamso attended a walk-in clinic in December last year where he discussed his mental health and was referred to a doctor.
He visited a GP and was prescribed antidepressant medication after reporting a long history of depression and anxiety dating back to 2013, with his dose being raised after four weeks when he described his symptoms as having worsened.
He was also given several contact details for organisations such as the Mental Health Rapid Response Service, and the inquest heard he was aware he could be seen at the university’s walk-in clinic on any week-day morning.
Miss Hamilton-Deeley praised the processes in place to support students, but said lessons could still be learned from Shubamso’s death.
She suggested his flatmates start a support group, so that if “something like this happens again” then they could speak with those affected and help them through the experience.
“There’s a huge room now for you to create a legacy for Shubamso,” Miss Hamilton-Deeley said.
Miss Hamilton-Deeley recorded the cause of death as cardiorespiratory arrest due to plastic bag suffocation, listing depression and anxiety as contributing factors.
She said a toxicology report scanning for drugs had returned “completely negative” results and the student had not had any physical diseases.
“My conclusion is that Shubamso took his own life, and I send my condolences to his family but particularly to all of you (his friends),” she said.
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