Anyone will tell you that university will be the best years of your life. For many of us, it’s our first experience living away from home. It’s a chance to meet friends for life, party hard and ‘find yourself’. So why are a significant number of students committing suicide?
Suicide rates seem to be rising in universities all over the UK. In the past decade, the number has nearly doubled to almost 150 deaths last year. What's just as worrying is the amount of universities who, when asked by The Tab about their figures, couldn’t even give an answer. Is this sensitive subject being brushed under the carpet?
The thing is, despite the shock factor of these statistics, we have to remember that these people are more than that. They aren’t just a figure to be quoted on a bit of paperwork. Each suicide relates back to an individual’s life, who had their own friends and family.
This makes it hard to pinpoint the reasons these people took their lives. We can’t assume that everybody does so for the same, simple reasons. However, there are clues, and anything that could save even one life is worth investigating, right?
The University of Bristol stands out, with seven students committing suicide within the past 18 months. Seven students.
This university is part of the UK’s Russell Group, meaning a respected degree from here often requires high grades to be accepted onto the course. Students who have worked their butts off getting here are suddenly surrounded by equally intelligent students. And that’s a good thing, sure, but anyone falling behind in lessons can feel very inadequate, compared to their peers. Anyone who looks like they’re living the high life may feel bombarded with deadline after deadline after deadline. That pressure can build up.
Bristol is also infamous for having one of the best uni party scenes in the UK. A city full of pubs, clubs and social events is, on the whole, every student’s dream. For the most part it’s all a bit of fun. But is there any link between the number of students suffering with mental health problems, who are also juggling late nights with hungover, sleep deprived days, buried under overdue assignments?
After all, the University of West England (UWE) which is also based in Bristol, was ranked last year by The Tab as the university with the most drug users – 92% of students, in fact. On top of this, UWE have lost two students themselves to suicide within the past year.
And then there’s all the other stuff. Money. Loneliness. University is exciting and terrifying. Move to a city, alone. Live with a load of people you’ve never met before. Be miles away from your friends and family. Learn to grow up and be more independent, all on the back of a student loan which probably doesn’t even cover your rent. And when it’s all over? That will be £27,000 worth of student debt please. I’m only joking – it’s normally more than that.
Becoming more independent is ultimately a good thing. Sometimes you’ve got to do things that scare you a little. But there needs to be better support for those who feel thrown into the whole thing with no way to cope with it all. These students feel as if they’re failing when, actually, lots of adults don’t even know how be adults.
It should be okay to talk about problems. Don’t just laugh off the things that are bothering you. “Haha, I had two hours sleep last night. I’m running on seven coffees and a vodka shot – and no, I didn’t finish my essay but that’s just the ‘I’ve-completely-lost-it’ student aesthetic I’m going for.”
Changes are being made, fortunately. The University of Bristol, for example, is putting £1 million into its mental health and wellbeing provision. 28 mental health advisers are being hired and this, at least, is a good starting point. If only it didn’t take so many suicides in the first place to spark a wake-up call in Bristol. It’s all about prevention, not the cure.