Illustration of a person's head with labels of mental health

Credit: Flickr/The People Speak!

Inanna Tribukait

Universities UK and the charity Papyrus call for all university staff who deal with students to receive training in suicide intervention and prevention

At least 95 students died by suicide in England and Wales in the twelve months ending July 2017, estimates the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In response, Universities UK and the charity Papyrus have published new guidelines for universities on preventing student suicides.

In this guide, they call for a collaboration between the staff of universities, local authorities and health services as well as students and parents. According to the guide, nearly one in four young people experience suicidal thoughts, and one in twenty will attempt suicide. In many cases, suicide is considered to be preventable through intervention. However, only one third of those dying by suicide are known to have been in touch with mental health services.

The University of Glasgow offers a wide range of mental health support services accessible to students, such as counseling and psychological services. Last November, the University pledged to invest £200,000 in mental health services, and the SRC has been running Mind Your Mate workshops on mental health and suicide prevention skills for students and staff since last January. Additionally, the SRC supports Glasgow Nightline, a confidential listening service operated by trained student volunteers during term-time nights.

Regarding the current state of mental health services available at the University, Lauren McDougall, SRC president stated: Over the last year the SRC have successfully lobbied for increased funding for the University’s Counselling and Psychological Service (CAPS), which was a welcome step, but it doesn’t go far enough. Evidence shows that a range of different options and interventions is needed; there is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

“This continues to be a major priority for the SRC and we remain committed to lobbying for increased investment in a more holistic range of support services including the UofG Peer Support Programme, as well as out of hours support, including online and telephone counselling.”

When asked if Glasgow University will be implementing any of the suggestions made in the guidelines, a spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “We recognise the importance of providing support and assistance to any student or member of staff who is struggling to cope or having potentially suicidal thoughts. Our team in Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offer emergency support as well as training which is focused on how to identify and deal with someone presenting with suicidal ideation.

“Approximately 150 members of staff have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders, which includes elements on suicide prevention. One senior member of staff is trained in ASIST – applied suicide intervention skills training – and will be delivering SAFETalk training to colleagues on campus. We will assess how appropriate and suitable the ASIST course is with a view to potentially offering it more widely to colleagues.”

“We are also partnering with an external agency to offer an online support network for students and pilot online therapy where students have asked for this. We hope to launch this very soon.”