Large display of shoes at Nottingham University to highlight student suicide rate

Almost 100 pairs of shoes have been displayed at the University of Nottingham as part of the student union’s Suicide Awareness Week

Sabrina Barr
Wednesday 20 March 2019 11:47
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A large display of shoes has been shown on a university campus to raise awareness of student suicide.

The demonstration was organised by the University of Nottingham's student's union as part of its Suicide Awareness Week, which started on Monday 18 March.

The 95 pairs of shoes were placed on the steps of the university's Djanogly Terrace by its Portland Building.

The shoes represent the number of students who took their own life in England and Wales between 2017 and 2018, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A petition has also been created calling on the university to provide better mental health support for its students.

The display was conceived by Zoe Mackenzie, equal opportunities and welfare officer at the University of Nottingham, and Myles Smith-Thompson, a third year sociology student.

Smith-Thompson explains to The Independent that the idea for the campaign came about when he and Mackenzie met to discuss the counselling services offered to students at the university.

"I had close friends who had been impacted by the significantly long waiting times," he says.

(University of Nottingham/Myles Smith-Thompson

According to the ONS, male higher education students are more likely to take their own lives than female students.

Between 2001 and 2017, of the 1,330 students who took their own lives in England and Wales, 66 per cent of them were male.

Smith-Thompson adds that student suicide is a "growing issue", and has put forward a list of recommendations for the university on how it can improve its welfare services.

These have been included in the petition, which currently has more than 1,500 signatures.

The recommendations for improved welfare services include recognising World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) on an annual basis, providing suicide awareness training for staff and increasing funding for the counselling service offered to students.

(University of Nottingham/Myles Smith-Thompson

On Friday 22 March, a 95-second silence is scheduled to take place at the University of Nottingham to mark the last day of Suicide Awareness Week.

Mackenzie was inspired to put on the display after seeing a similar one organised by a mental health charity to raise awareness of child suicide, the welfare officer tells The Independent.

In February, hundreds of children's shoes were placed on the steps of an events hall in Liverpool by charity Chasing the Stigma, in collaboration with local radio station Radio City Talk.

A spokesperson for the University of Nottingham tells The Independent that the institution invests more than £1m into its mental health, counselling and pastoral services every year.

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They added that the university is rolling out mental health first aid training for staff across the university.

"We work closely with the students’ union, who are a key partner in supporting students’ welfare whilst they are at university and we look forward to working with them on the campaign and the points the students’ union have outlined," the spokesperson says.

You can contact suicide prevention charity Samaritans by contacting 116 123. The helpline is free to call and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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