Mother's grief as son with depression kills himself during lockdown

Grieving mother calls for more mental health support for university students after her son, 22, killed himself while suffering with depression during lockdown

  • Robbie Curtis took his own life after ‘suffering from depression during lockdown’
  • He told his mother Lesley he was going out for a run but never returned home
  • Police found him  dead in woodland near Dickens Avenue, Canterbury, in August
  • University of Nottingham graduate, 22, volunteered at Kent NHS Covid test site
  • His mother has launched charity to help people recognise mental illness signs
  • For confidential support call Samaritans on 116123, or go to www.samaritans.org 

The mother of a student with a ‘gift for picking others up when they felt down’ has talked of her grief and fears that lockdown pushed her son to take his own life. 

Lesley Curtis has warned that if it can happen to her son Robbie, 22, ‘it can happen to anyone’ calling her loss every ‘parent’s nightmare’. 

She has called for more mental health support for university students and has launched a charity, R World, to help people recognise the signs of mental illness.

Lesley said: ‘I think lockdown played some part in it… having the same routine every day and not knowing what was going to happen.’

‘There are a lot of students not coping with lockdown, I’m sure,’ she added.  

NHS volunteer Robbie Curtis, who had been working at a Covid testing site before his death, suffered spells of low mood and suicidal thoughts during the first lockdown.


Robbie Curtis, 22, (pictured left) was found dead in August. The University of Nottingham graduate (pictured right) suffered from depression and took his own life during lockdown

Grieving mother Lesley Curtis (pictured centre with Robbie right) has warned that if it can happen to her son ‘it can happen to anyone’

He started treatment in Canterbury last July and over the following weeks assured his mother and his GP that his condition was improving, according to Kent Online. 

But on August 17, the University of Nottingham geography graduate was found dead in woodland behind Dickens Avenue in Canterbury. 

‘Robbie was very kind, modest, intelligent and sporty,’ Lesley told the publication.

‘He was very popular and had a gift of picking people up and supporting them when they were down.

‘Robbie realised he needed to get help and I think he was quite frightened of what was happening to him.

‘He had a couple of short bouts of depression during university, but he was generally a very happy boy, and that’s why it’s so shocking.

‘If it can happen to Robbie, it can happen to anyone.’

Robbie had disappeared the day before, after telling Lesley he was going out of their home for a run. But Lesley grew concerned when he did not return home and reported his disappearance to police. 

Officers discovered his body the next day after tracing his phone using a lost device location app.

Robbie (pictured with his family) told his family he was going out for a run in August but never returned home. His mother Lesley has called for more mental health support for university students after the family launched a charity to help people recognise signs of mental illness

NHS volunteer Robbie (right) had been working at a Covid testing site in Kent prior to his death. His mother Lesley (left) called her loss ‘every parent’s nightmare, and added: ‘I miss him beyond belief’

Lesley called her loss ‘a parent’s worst nightmare’ and said she believed he was just going on a run to lift his spirits. 

‘His mood was very low and he was quite different that morning – I’d never seen him like that,’ Lesley recalled, admitting she found it difficult to understand how he had been pushed to suicide.  

When she would ask how he was feeling, he would say he was improving. But she now fears this was his way of ‘protecting her from his dark thoughts’.

Post-mortem examinations found that Robbie died from carbon monoxide toxicity, an inquest was told. Police found his body in woodlands near Canterbury

‘He seemed to be improving,’ she explained to Kent Online. ‘It was a shock to me and to everyone.

‘I miss him beyond belief,’ she added of the gifted poet, who was due to take up a scholarship at the University of Sussex in September. 

An inquest in Maidstone heard how police discovered a suicide note on his laptop and instructions saying he wanted his funds to be split between a number of charities.

DS Renata Johnson told the hearing that subsequent searches of his computer found poetry that ‘indicated his intention was to take his own life’.

An online referral to a psychological health service in July found by officers on his laptop also revealed ‘Robbie was depressed and had frequent suicidal thoughts’.   

Dr Tim Noble, of the University Medical Centre, revealed that Robbie described having ‘a history of depression’ and low mood, which ‘had dropped since the Covid lockdown’, during an appointment at the surgery on July 20.

But a statement read on the GPs behalf added: ‘He didn’t think he would act on his thoughts’ and ‘he said he had no further suicidal thoughts.’

A therapist working with Robbie also believed his ‘risk of harm was low’.

Post-mortem examinations found that Robbie died from carbon monoxide toxicity. Senior coroner Patricia Harding recorded Robbie’s death as suicide.  

  • For confidential support call Samaritans on 116123, visit a Samaritans branch or go to www.samaritans.org 

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