Do universities have a suicide problem?

By Luke Footman.

What do student suicides tell us about the education system we grow up in?

Since the 1950s there has been limited data on student suicides. However, the Office of National Statistics illustrated figures to show 95 recorded university student suicides for the 12 months to July 2017 in England and Wales.

Suicide rates were higher among young men than young women.

Between 2007 and 2015 the number of student suicides in the UK increased by 79 per cent, from 75 to 134. The main focus of this data is to illustrate the constant rise in the number of student suicides at our universities. It’s difficult, though, to ascertain the exact number of suicides at a given university. Often institution’s do not keep a record.

Yet, recently papers were leaked to Bristol Live proving this information was held in the University of the West of England’s (UWE) database. The extensive report looks at the 14 deaths by suicide at the university between January 2010 and July 2018.

Listed as not for the public, the report shows three students had died in the last academic year, and five in the last two years. This information did not help the UWE build their deteriorating reputation concerning the handling of this situation.

Law student Callum Tucker, who sits on the university’s (UWE) Academic Board, said he wanted to know why the university was concealing the suicide rate at their institution.

Mr Tucker said: “We need to make people aware that suicides are happening at the university. We need to speak about it and invest more in welfare and helping students.”

“It comes as a shock. I have no idea why they won’t give it out. They should be especially open and transparent about it.”

Similarly, In a period of 16 months, seven students have died by suicide at The University of Bristol. Cris Oehling Pascual, a student from the university, proclaimed that “lives are being put at risk.” She’s also co-founder of Keep Our Communities, a protest group opposed to proposed changes of the university’s student support system. The discussion is vitally important because people are dying.

In comparison, there have also been seven suicides at Sheffield, another Russell Group university, but that’s over the course of five years, leading up to 2015. Ultimately, inquests ruled Bristol’s seven suicides not linked. But, of course, they are. The mental health of each person is a congruent narrative and suicide is a consequence.

There seems to be a link with suicide rates at university being unprecedently high and questions need to be asked; is the support really there for students? The fact is, the number of suicides of students at university is continually rising, and that is an alarming issue which needs to be tackled. Universities must provide better-equipped services for students and dramatically increase funding for student wellbeing.

If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, click here. In the UK you can call for free, at any time, to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066.

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