On the eve of an official report on university student suicides, a NationalWorld investigation found that most UK universities have no record of the number of student suicides
While some simply don’t keep records, many pointed out that coroners are not required to tell them if one of their students dies by suicide, our investigation found. The findings raise questions about whether universities can know if their support services are adequate, with the National Union of Students warning of a “student mental health crisis.”
The union said it was “deeply concerned” about the issue of suicide in higher education.
A spokesman said: “Students are burdened with anxiety, feel overlooked by those in power and are unsupported as they navigate the financial hardships that are compounding the students’ mental health crisis. Students have campaigned for improvements in university welfare services for many years, and while we have seen additional funding for institutions as a result of our efforts, progress is still being made.”
Universities UK, which represents the sector, said: “Universities want to learn from every avoidable student death to improve the way we work with statutory services to manage risk.”
It said it was working with suicide prevention charities Papyrus and Samaritans on new guidance for universities on what to do after a student takes their own life, to be published this summer.
A spokesman said he would be interested in discussing whether coroners could by default notify a university if one of its students committed suicide.
The spokesman said: “We would definitely be open to exploring this with coroners and public health officials and how it might work in practice.”
However, the Justice Department seemed less enthusiastic, saying coroners are “already required to issue a report on preventing future deaths if they identify circumstances that need to be addressed”.
“This report will be sent to all stakeholders who could take appropriate action, including universities,” a spokesman said.
In Scotland, sudden or unexplained deaths are investigated by prosecutors rather than coroners.
A spokesman for the service said: “When an investigation into a fatal accident is conducted, a university may be notified if circumstances so require.”
Earlier this month a court found that the University of Bristol discriminated against a student who took her own life before an oral exam after suffering from crippling anxiety.
“Hardworking and high-performing” physics student Natasha Abrahart, 20, was found dead at her home in April 2018, a day before she was scheduled to attend a group presentation in a 329-seat lecture hall.
Her parents, Robert and Margaret, had sued the university, alleging that she had failed in her duties to their daughter under the Equality Act. The university has been ordered to pay Ms Abrahart’s parents £50,000 in damages for failing to take account of her intellectual disability or make appropriate adjustments to her daughter’s assessment.
Ms Abrahart, a retired psychotherapist, urged the university to apologize and “finally get your head out of the sand and realize that now is the time for change”.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said the “entire university community is deeply saddened by Natasha’s tragic death” and added: “Given the significant impact this decision could have on how all higher education providers support their students, we are carefully reviewing the decision, including whether we appeal.”
NationalWorld sent freedom of information requests to all UK universities asking how many of their students had died by suicide since 2018. Of the 114 who responded, 67 (59%) said they did not have this information.
Five universities refused to disclose the numbers. Responses from the remaining 42 universities revealed records of at least 120 student suicides since 2018.
The inquiry comes on the eve of an update to a major national report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on student suicides across England and Wales.
A earlier ONS studywhich covers the period from July 2001 to July 2017, carefully compared student death certificates with coroners’ court records to calculate the national suicide rate among college students.
It found that while the suicide rate among university students was lower than among the broader population of the same age, male students were at higher risk than their female classmates. An updated version of this study is scheduled to be published on Tuesday.
Ged Flynn, executive director of suicide prevention youth charity Papyrus, said: “Many people, both inside and outside of education, will find that they are supporting a loved one who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. This can be a very difficult situation, many people will find this challenging and they need to know that professional help and support is available.”
- Help is available for anyone affected by this issue. Papyrus offers support and advice for young people up to the age of 35. Contact Papyrus HopelineUK on 0800 068 4141, SMS 07860 039967 or email [email protected].You can also call the Samaritans toll free on 116 123 or email at [email protected]or visit samaritaner.org to find your nearest branch.
https://www.nationalworld.com/news/uk/most-uk-universities-do-not-know-how-many-students-die-suicide-3710503 Most British universities do not keep records of student suicides