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New figures reveal 95 student suicides over the past year

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing 95 recorded student suicides in the 12 months to July 2017 in England and Wales.

This is lower than the suicide rate for the general population of similar ages, however, the figure does not include suicides among students at further education colleges.

Conflictingly, previous Hong Kong based research on the UK claimed that student suicide rate is higher than that of the general population in the same age group. Additionally, it found that from 2007 to 2016, suicide rate increased by 56%. In 2016, the suicide rate for male students was 15.7 per 100,000 people and 14.8 for non-students. Comparatively, for female students the rate was 6 per 100,000 and 5.7 for non-students.

Up until the most recent figures from the ONS, research into student suicide in the UK was not as detailed: variables such as undergraduate or postgraduate status or comparisons with similar age groups not participating in higher education are now available for the first time.

In keeping with prior research, the ONS found that the suicide rate for males is higher (approximately double) than that of females.

In addition, the data released by the ONS shows that the suicide rate is higher for part-time students compared to full-time. Similarly, it is higher for undergraduates than for postgraduates and for non-first-year students compared to first-years.

At Bristol University, for example, there were six student suicides in 2017. The university committed an extra £1 million annually to a new student wellbeing service with the hope to reduce this figure.

At Warwick University, a Freedom of Information request by the Boar found that from 2013 to 2016, 482 ambulances were called to the campus; 12 of these were in response to suicides or attempted suicides. According to another Freedom of Information request, the University spent spent £11.92 per student per year on counselling as of 2016.

The University offers a variety of support services. Warwick University has a Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, offering mentoring, advice and referrals. The University counselling provides face-to-face counselling, email counselling, group therapy and specialist workshops.

Furthermore, Nightline provides a non-judgemental, confidential mode of support. Each student is also allocated a personal tutor, with whom they can discuss any issues encountered both in university and at home.

Many departments have introduced a mentor scheme which partners first-year students with second and third years, to ensure they have another supportive relationship on campus.

John de Pury, the Universities UK lead on mental health policy, commented for the BBC: “Although there is a lower rate of student suicide among university students in England and Wales compared with the general population of similar ages, there is no room for complacency here. This remains an urgent challenge for universities and society.”

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