One in 12 UK students admit to suicidal thoughts

A recent survey reveals a decline in mental well-being across the UK student population

Photo credit : Sander van der Wel

Photo credit : Sander van der Wel

A nationwide survey conducted by YouthSight last month has found that one in 12 students experience suicidal thoughts at least once during their university careers.

Suicide rates for students across the country have been on a steady incline according to data provided by the Office for National Statistics.

Although figures were not available for 2012, the calendar year of 2011 saw 78 male and 34 female students end their lives.

These suicide mortality rates dwarf those recorded for 2007, in which 75 students committed suicide in total. The data consistently shows a significantly higher rate of suicide among young men than women each year.

There have been no recorded student suicides at the University of York for the last two years, but in the academic year of 2009-2010 two students are known to have taken their own lives, with five student deaths recorded in total.

The Nightline survey also found that 75 per cent of students had personally experienced some form of emotional distress while at university. Stress was the most common cause, with 65 per cent of the 1000 students asked admitting that they had suffered from stress during at least one period of their university careers.

43 per cent of the students asked admitted they had experienced anxiety, loneliness and feelings of not being able to cope. A further third of all students questioned had felt depressed or homesick at one time whilst at university.

York has seen a consistent rise in students withdrawing for personal reasons. In four years the number of these undergraduate students has trebled. Last year a total of 15 undergraduates and ten postgraduates were recorded.

Mags Godderidge, Charity Development Manager at Nightline, highlighted in particular the fact that only five per cent of students surveyed agreed with the statement ‘No, I don’t know anyone who has experienced these feelings whilst at university’. She described this statistic in particular as suggestive that these negative feelings and mood states are “prevalent” across the UK student population.

YUSU Welfare Officer, George Offer commented: “The latest Nightline research confirms what we already thought; that a lot of students experience pressure, stress and mental health difficulties whilst at University. This is why YUSU is committed to improving support for students (in particular, supporting the latest moves to increase College welfare support and extending Health Centre Hours), but also to reducing problems in the first place by improving, for instance, the quality of private sector housing and the affordability of studying at University.”

YUSU President Kallum Taylor said: “The sad thing is that these findings are not surprising at all. There’s a massive gap in smart and appropriate provision between a student feeling fine and a student in a crisis and this is something we’re hoping to push over the coming year. Too many students keep their heads down and eventually make themselves worse; probably due to an inconsistency in support services, a lack of information, the stigma attached to ‘needing a chat’ and maybe, denial. It’s time to fill that gap.”

York Nightline provides a confidential listening service every night during term-time and can be reached on 01904 323735 or 3735 from an internal phone. Samaritans provide a similar service, which is available 24/7, on 08457 90 90 90.

6 comments

  1. 22 Jul ’13 at 5:21 pm

    Pav Dhande (Public Face)

    Well done Nouse for covering an important and sometimes overlooked issue. Nightline is there to talk about anything – nothing is too big or too small for the service. If you don’t want to phone, you can always visit the flat in Wentworth E Block, use the instant messaging service or e-mail [email protected]

    All calls are confidential and taken by two student volunteers. We also provide information on several student issues and provide free sexual health supply.

    For more information about what we do visit either our Facebook on http://www.facebook.com/yorknightline or website at http://www.yorknightline.org.uk

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  2. 23 Jul ’13 at 3:22 am

    CptJohnSheridan

    Surprised the number’s so low. It really is a huge, huge problem.

    I don’t know where I’d be right how if it weren’t for the Open Door team. They’ve saved my life. Can’t recommend them strongly enough.

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  3. @Anon

    “Journalists are under pressure to file reports which are of the moment and in the public interest but there remains the responsibility not to glamorise the story or intrude on the grief and shock of those affected.”

    I wouldn’t call this glamorised. I also think this information is in the public interest – how can students and unions make informed decisions about welfare provision without the facts?

    Also, congratulations on pulling up the NUS figures which Vision used – unsurprisingly different reports using different raw data come to different conclusions. It seems as though 10% (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22596027) and 8.3% are fairly comparable taking statistical margins of error into account.

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  4. i think that this is a very important issue although I can’t help but feel that the fact that univeristy attendees has risen steadily also since 2007. Could this account for the increase in the suicide statistic?

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  5. 7 Aug ’13 at 7:27 pm

    Pav Dhande (Public Face)

    Although we are in the same flat providing the same service, we are now situated in Eric Milner-White Court next to House D.

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