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Inquest reveals that student felt "lonely"

An inquest into the suicide of University of Sussex International Relations student, Christopher Hatton, has indicated that he was suffering from depression. East Sussex coroner, Alan Craze, stated that the balance of his mind was disturbed when he took his own life earlier this year. Chris’ body was found on farmland near the University of Sussex campus, Falmer, on Tuesday 29 June 2010.

Following his death, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, sent a letter of condolence to Chris’ family. Professor Stefan Elbe, Head of International Relations, said: “We are shocked and saddened to hear of Christopher’s death. Christopher was an engaged, energetic and sociable student.”

Commenting on the outcome of the inquest held on Thursday 4 November, the university said:  “It’s right and proper that an inquest was carried out to ensure that the circumstances of Chris’ death are properly understood.

“The outcome gives an opportunity for Chris’ family, friends and all those who knew him to reflect on Chris and on his life.”

Although Chris was extremely popular and had many close friends, the 22-year-old student struggled with depression and loneliness. This was reflected in poetry he wrote about his feelings, which was discovered after his death.

Chris is remembered by friends as an intelligent, happy and outgoing person with a “magnetic personality” and was frequently described as being the “epitome of joy.”

One friend said: “He was friendly to everyone, no matter who it was. Everyone would recognise him; he was a face of Sussex.”

Christopher Tucker, Residential Student Support Manager, who worked with Chris when he served as a Residential Advisor, described him as “a lovely person” and added: “[w]hile he worked as a Residential Advisor he supported numerous Sussex students.”

In a statement read at the inquest, Anthony Hatton, Chris’ father, said: ‘He would stay up all night comforting and listening to somebody who was distressed.

“He would treat everyone like a long-lost friend whether it was the check-out person at the local supermarket or the most senior person in the land.

“Despite all the interactions he had with many people he continued to feel lonely, ugly, empty and worthless.”

Mr Hatton, like Chris, a citizen of Swaziland, revealed that his son had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, also known as manic depression.

A service in his memory took place in Brighton Crematorium, where tributes were paid by Mary Fraser, founder and former principal of Sifundzani Primary School, which Christopher once attended; by Professor Gywn Prins, godson of Anthony Hatton  and Chairman of Waterloo’s UK Board of Trustee; and also by Chris’ close friends.

In the Meeting House on the University of Sussex campus, a short thanksgiving service was also held and a tree was planted in the grounds nearby on Friday 9 July.

It was a great comfort to Chris’ family that 200 people attended the memorial, where everyone lit candles, shared music, and listened to readings.

At the request of Chris’ family the dress code for the event was bright and colourful in recognition of his happy and outgoing nature.

Hundreds of people paid tribute to Chris by joining a Facebook group devoted to him entitled ‘In loving memory of Chris Hatton’.

A member of the group posted a message on the group’s wall saying that: “Chris was one of the most spectacular, infectious, wonderful, bright people I have ever met. Instantly a friend to everyone. I am so sorry to everyone who knew and loved him. I hope he has found some peace.”

If students need support, they should contact the university’s counselling service on (01273) 678156 or via e-mail at counsellingreception@sussex.ac.uk

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