Rebecca Gallagher was less than six months into her first semester when she was found dead inside her University of Sydney college dormitory. She had been inactive for a day on Facebook messenger, her classmates say, which was unusual for the vivacious former Kincoppal-Rose Bay pupil who had a habit of collecting friends.
The last day of semester in June 2016 should have been a time of celebration for the students of St Andrew’s college. But the girl affectionately known as Bec had not been seen since she was dropped off at the college’s gate 24 hours earlier. Concerned, her friends contacted the college’s vice-principal Hester Wilson. With no response emerging from inside the 18-year-old’s dormitory, Dr Wilson used a master key to open her bedroom.
Inside she found Bec wearing her pyjamas, her hand cradling her head, dead.
Bec, the daughter of two doctors, Bondi GP Virginia Solomon and Riverina cardiologist David Gallagher, had died from complications believed to be associated with anorexia nervosa.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said a report was being prepared for the coroner.
In her death notice, the family, whom Fairfax Media contacted before publishing this story, asked that in Bec’s memory donations could be made to the Butterfly Foundation, a charity that supports those suffering from eating disorders.
Now, more than a year after Bec’s death, concerns remain about the impact of eating disorders in university college settings Australia wide, as thousands of high school students across the country prepare to decide if they will live on campus at a college next year.
University of Melbourne researcher Marie Camin said communal living, rigid meal times, and the college culture of sexual objectification could exacerbate eating disorders which affect up to one million Australians, according to a report from Deloitte Access Economics and The Butterfly Foundation.
Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan said it was important for college staff to be educated and have an awareness of symptoms associated with eating disorders.”Colleges should have appropriate health professionals, services and information available to support or refer college residents,” she said.
– Nina Funnell and Eryk Bagshaw
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