Suicides at record level among U.K. students

May 10, 2018 by Michael Richards, John Marsden And Sean Creaney, The Conversation
Credit: shutterstock

According to a recent study, the rates of suicide among students in the UK has reached record levels. The international study, by Raymond Kwok and colleagues at Hong Kong University's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, provides further evidence that large numbers of students attending UK universities are struggling to maintain their mental health.

The study contributes to growing evidence of a problem with mental – and confirms the findings of previous studies which suggest a fivefold increase in the number of students disclosing over the last ten years. This comes on top of an increase in the number of students leaving courses because of mental health difficulties.

And while this issue isn't just limited to the UK, the scale of the crisis at UK universities has seen many counselling and overwhelmed by rising demand.

Why is this happening?

Students attend university at a developing stage of their young adulthood – and making this transition from home life to university life can be emotionally challenging. Leaving behind existing networks can also be highly difficult for students.

Many students come from complex backgrounds where have already manifested. And while there is a stereotype that students just "drink and take drugs", this obviously isn't the case for all students – which makes a student's circumstances potentially complex.

The demands of academic life and the pressures of financially making ends meet can also be a real problem for students. And it's not just who feel the strain of student life either. In one survey of 2,279 Ph.D. candidates, many reported high rates of anxiety and depression.

For these students, there is not just the demand to complete a Ph.D. thesis over three years, but also the teaching, admin, research – and that's without mentioning the full-time and part-time jobs many students have to take on to survive.

All of which no doubt contributes to university drop out rates and failure to produce academic work. For students, this adds to the tensions and feelings of low worth – which impact things well beyond the confines of the university campus.

How to help students

To help students in need, more personalised forms of support are required – that acknowledge past traumas and distressed states – to address key sources of stress. In this way, there should be a concerted effort to tackle the root causes of the problem.

But this isn't just down to counselling services or university teams, everyone on campus has a role to play – from the lecturers to support staff. This is important, because students might be more likely to turn to a regular friendly face for help, rather than reach out to an official support service.

Ultimately, universities have a responsibility to create safe spaces and to provide support beyond the campus. And with latest figures showing that the suicide rates among UK students have increased by 56% in the last ten years – to overtake the suicide rate of young people in the general population for the first time – it is clear that a huge effort is needed to provide more support and reassurance to students, throughout their studies.

Explore further: Study links mental health to poor school results

Related Stories

Study links mental health to poor school results

December 18, 2017
A national survey led by The University of Western Australia has painted a bleak picture of the effect of mental disorders on Australia's school students with the results revealing poorer academic outcomes, more absences ...

Choosing the wrong college can be bad for your mental health

April 17, 2018
Going off to college might be a source of anxiety for some students, but once a student is on campus it shouldn't be a total drag.

Attitudes to learning may influence mental health

April 24, 2017
Students' mental health may be tied to their approach to learning, research suggests.

LGBQQ college students face barriers to campus mental health services, study finds

May 30, 2017
College students who belong to sexual minority groups are more likely to seek help for mental health problems than their straight peers, but they still face many barriers to using on-campus mental health services, according ...

College students with autism have high rate of suicidal thoughts

March 7, 2018
Over the next decade, about 247,000 young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are expected to enroll in universities, colleges, or technical/vocational schools. Because post-secondary education is expected to present ...

Medical students with mental health problems do not feel adequately supported

September 1, 2015
Over 80% of medical students with mental health issues feel they receive poor or only moderately adequate support from their medical schools, finds a small online survey published in Student BMJ today.

Recommended for you

Neuroimaging study reveals 'hot spot' for cue-reactivity in substance-dependent population

November 20, 2018
When patients with dependence on alcohol, cocaine or nicotine are shown drug cues, or images related to the substance, an area of their brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) shows increased activity, report investigators ...

Being fair: The benefits of early child education

November 20, 2018
Children from low-income families who got intensive education early in life treat others with high levels of fairness in midlife, more than 40 years later, even when being fair comes at a high personal cost, according to ...

Does Netflix's '13 Reasons Why' influence teen suicide? Survey asks at-risk youths

November 20, 2018
A significant proportion of suicidal teens treated in a psychiatric emergency department said that watching the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" had increased their suicide risk, a University of Michigan study finds.

MDMA makes people cooperative, but not gullible

November 19, 2018
New research from King's College London has found that MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy, causes people to cooperate better—but only with trustworthy people. In the first study to look in detail at how MDMA impacts cooperative ...

Exploring the genetic contribution to suicide risk

November 19, 2018
Researchers at University of Utah Health identified four gene changes that occur more frequently in people who died by suicide that may point to increased risk in vulnerable individuals.

Response to daily stressors could affect brain health in older adults

November 19, 2018
Taking typical daily annoyances such as a long wait at the doctor's office or a traffic jam on the freeway in stride may help preserve brain health in older adults, while emotional reactions could contribute to declines in ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 19, 2018
To instantly stop suicidal ideation and behavior administer by mouth 250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid pheromone. Preservation for up to two years is expected from a single 1/4th gram dose. The same dose alleviates opioid addiction without side effects, halts symptoms of ADHD, borderline personality disorder, sexual perversions of all types, criminal behavior, delinquency, OCD, PTSD, onychophagia, anxiety disorder, it's a panacea for "mental" illness (which is pheromonal, not mental at all, bad thinking does not cause disease).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.