Student suicides at their highest level since 2007, according to Office for National Statistics

Number has risen to 130 in 2014 – from 75 in 2007 – as Samaritans charity urges students to seek help 

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The Independent Online

The number of student suicides across England and Wales have soared to their highest level since 2007.

Figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week have shown there were 130 suicides among both nations’ full-time students aged 18 and over in 2014, with the number considerably higher among men (97).

In 2007 – when the ONS started to record the student-related figures – there were 75 suicides.

The statistics have come in the same week an inquiry by researchers at the University of Manchester found more than half of young people who took their own lives between January and April last year suffered school pressures and bullying and had previously self-harmed.

The inquiry’s director, Professor Louis Appleby, acknowledged that suicide is a leading cause of death in young people, and the impact on families is “particularly traumatic”. 

He said: “We found the risk rose sharply from mid-to-late teens, and the reasons appear to be complex. There are often family problems such as drug misuse or domestic violence and more recent stresses such as bullying or bereavement, leading to a ‘final straw’ factor such as an exam or relationship breakdown.”

Student mental ill-health in the UK is nearing crisis point and was explored in a separate report this month. Put together for the head of the University of York, it revealed the prevalence and severity of mental ill-health among students on the nation’s campuses has been increasing and is continuing to rise.

According to ambulance call-out figures for the institution – from 1 January to 8 February 2016 alone – from the 24 emergency call-outs the university received, half were for self-harm or suicide attempts.

Three factors cited for the rise over the past decade were the rising costs associated with higher education, a more difficult labour market post-graduation, and the rise in digital technology which has resulted in cyberbullying.

Professor Koen Lamberts, York’s vice-chancellor and president, pledged his personal support, and said: “This is a very important issue for the university, and I look forward to working with colleagues from academic and support departments as we put in place the report’s recommendations.”

Reflecting on the current situation, emotional support charity Samaritans said it is “a tragedy” that at university – a time when the world and opportunities should be opening up to young people – some find their problems overwhelming.

A spokesperson for the charity described how it is now talking to universities to find out the best way to provide support to students affected by suicide, and emphasised the importance of starting conversation at secondary level.

The spokesperson said: “We need to start early in secondary schools getting the message across to young people that asking for help is okay, and supporting others is too. Samaritans’ DEAL [developing emotional awareness and listening] teaches this in schools already and we want to extend it more widely.

“We need to reach young people who are not on the radar of the mental health services, and who slip through the net. It’s really important young people in distress and those bereaved by suicide are enabled to talk about it and get help.

“If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, start a conversation and ask how they are.”

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Samaritans added it will be running a pilot scheme with two universities this autumn.

The spokesperson continued: “Samaritans volunteers throughout the UK and Ireland already have relationships within higher education and provide round-the-clock support for students who are struggling, and our volunteers also run Step by Step which helps schools in the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide.

“Suicide is complex and there isn’t a single trigger, it can be any number of things and then one final problem that pushes someone over the edge. What is overwhelming to one young person may not be to another, but our priority should be to provide support and encourage students to seek help.”

Regardless of whether you’re a student or not, whatever you’re going through, please dont suffer alone and call Samaritans at any time from any phone on 116 123 for help, support, and advice. It is free and will not appear on your phone bill

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