Hannah Webster, 20, triggered a nation-wide hunt after disappearing from her home in Colchester on Thursday. The news of her disappearance quickly spread across Twitter and Facebook where people that knew her desperately appealed for help from anyone they possibly could.
Hannah studied finance at the University of Essex and was well known from her involvement in many of the sports teams at the university.
She was a very likeable character and was involved with the LGBT groups at the university also. Her friends described her as “gentle, loving and funny”, and “a presence that was soothing”.
After a large hunt sparked by the fact that Hannah was “vulnerable and suicidal”, the search was suspended due to the discovery of a woman’s body in a wooded area near a cycle route between East Hill and The Hythe. The body was confirmed to be Hannah’s.
The university released a statement to all the students explaining the situation. “It is with great sadness that we inform you the search for missing student Hannah Webster has been suspended following the discovery of a women’s body in Colchester. The death is not being treated as suspicious by Essex Police.” They also offered emotional support for anyone affected by the tragedy.
In an interview with one of Hannah’s closest friends, Alice Corby, I got a bit more insight into Hannah as a person and what led her to committing suicide.
When asked what Hannah was like, Alice smiled and said “Well, Hannah was just a beautiful person, she was really sunny and kind of goofy. She had a strong Yorkshire accent that made up a lot of her charm.”
She also mentioned that Hannah “was quite into sports”, and “had a motorbike, which was her pride and joy.” This was quite heart-warming, in contrast to the sadness that led her to taking such drastic actions. It shows how a person with so much warmth and passion can be completely broken down by mental illness.
Alice also told me that Hannah had struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder that caused her to suffer every day. “The symptoms that affected her most were the anger, abandonment issues and chronic emptiness.”
Due to this disorder, she often destroyed a lot of her possessions and often got into violent situations. She didn’t have the best relationship with her partner either and broke up with her a few days prior to her death, which Alice believed, may have been a contributing factor to snowball effect that dragged Hannah down.
Her relationship with her partner and parents was often toxic, leaving her feeling lonely and empty, which she often told Alice about. She told her that she couldn’t cope with life any longer and that she was progressively getting worse. Without any solid help for her mental health issues, Hannah felt defeated.
Hannah texted Alice on the day of her death telling her that she is getting help and doing better, when in reality, an hour after sending the text she left her home to never come back. “I think it goes to show how amazing Hannah was. Even when she was in such a state that she wanted it all to end, she was still thinking of others and she could make it easier for them.”
People with mental health problems are all around, we just have to open our eyes and see just how devastating the effects of mental illness really can be. Within society today, I believe that the stigma around mental illness is incredibly high and the only way to defeat that is to educate people and improve understanding of mental illnesses such as BPD.
Hannah’s story shows how a person can go from being able to cope with the symptoms of their mental illnesses to being completely stripped off the crutches that held them up and kept them balanced and stable in what seems like a blink of an eye. It makes us realise that we all need to look out for each other and spot signs that many avoid future tragedies.
There is always a way out, even if you don’t have the best relationship with your family, there are people who struggle just the same as you, people you can talk to and relate to. There are many units of support that can guide you through tough times. Don’t be afraid to seek help and ask for it wherever you can, there is nothing wrong with not feeling fine.
If you are struggling or need any advice or guidance or are feeling suicidal, here are some helpline that can be accessed:
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.