By Sophia Rodgers
According to new guidelines, all staff who work with students within universities should receive suicide prevention and intervention training. With suicide becoming an increasingly widespread problem, the most up-to-date statistics from Universities UK (UUK) recorded that during 2016 146 students committed suicide, with the University of Bristol having 10 deaths among students since October 2016; some of which were confirmed as suicides.
The guidance, however, published by the UUK group and youth suicide prevention charity Papyrus has made cursory references regarding data protection issues which could prevent the families of vulnerable students being contacted by universities.
Ben Murray, a first-year English student at the University of Bristol, tragically died in May earlier this year. His father James appeared alongside university leaders to launch the new guidelines at the UUK annual conference which was held in Sheffield and campaigned for better data sharing by universities.
“Our son Ben was amongst the two-thirds of sudden deaths involving students not previously known to support services. We sincerely hope that the number of sudden deaths will reduce over time, but hope is not a strategy, and that’s why this guidance is so important,” James Murray said.
A new guide has been published which includes advice on when university staff should intervene if a student gets into difficulties, alongside a checklist of steps that they should take to prevent suicides within their communities. This guidance also suggests that ‘all student-facing academic, professional services and operational staff across the organisation’ should receive training and refresher courses surrounding suicide awareness and the correct way to intervene with vulnerable students.
It has been shown that recently 94% of universities have experienced an abrupt increase in the number of people trying to gain access to support services.
Suicide has been named as the main cause of death among people under the age of 35, with more than 1,600 cases across the UK every year. The recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the suicide rate amid university students to be significantly lower than among the general population.
If you would like to contact a suicide prevention hotline in the UK, Papyrus can be contacted on 0800 068 41 41 or text 07786209697, in addition to the Samaritans who can be contacted on 116 123. Alongside this, within the University of Hertfordshire, the Health and Wellbeing centre can be found within the Hutton Hub on College Lane and contacted at 01707 284453, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @WellbeingSvcs