Recession sees rise in number of student suicides

5 December 2012

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal a dramatic increase in the number of students in England and Wales who have taken their own lives. With increasing pressure placed on students and budget deficits limiting the provision of mental health support, more students than ever before are feeling isolated and stressed whilst at university.

Suicide is more common amongst male students with 78 committing suicide last year, 2011, in comparison to 38 female students. When contrasted to 2007, the year before the recession, this is an increase of 36% for male students, whilst the number of female suicides has almost doubled.

Approximately five per cent of Cambridge students who use the University Counselling Service (pictured above), UCS, are reported to talk seriously of ‘suicidal ideation’. This equates to 40-50 students a year. Whilst Cambridge’s intense and pressured environment can often leave students feeling hopeless, Chris Page, Welfare and Rights Officer at Cambridge University Students’ Union, told The Cambridge Student that: ‘The rate of student suicide at Cambridge is not significantly higher than at other Universities. It is worth remembering that… there are robust procedures in place to support students when they are feeling desperate.’

However, suicide is reported to be the second most common cause of death amongst young people. As university becomes increasingly pressured and students are pushed ever further into debt, the number who consider ending their lives is on the increase. A recent inquest into the suicide of Toby Thorn, a student from Anglia Ruskin University, ruled that worry over student debt was a major contributory factor to his death in July, 2011. Thorn dropped out of his course halfway through second year amidst mounting concerns over his finances but resumed his studies briefly in his third year before dropping out again. That he wrote a suicide note on the back of a bank statement suggests the extent to which financial worries were governing his life.

Thorn’s view of his financial situation is not, however, uncommon with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, being overwhelmed, and feeling worthless cited among the most common causes of suicidal tendencies on the UCS website.

The role of the university is increasingly important in the prevention of student suicide and is critical to helping students deal with the pressures associated with university life. This is a view shared by Page, who also commented that there is a lot more universities should be doing to help students overcome and avoid suicidal mind-sets. ‘We need to create an environment where students can feel comfortable not just in speaking about how they feel, but also in who they are as people; life is not just about getting a first; it is not about driving yourself into the ground; it is never ‘not worth talking about.’

Jenny Buckley – Deputy News Editor

If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article, you can contact these organisations:

Cambridge Samaritans: 4 Emmanuel Road Cambridge CB1 1JW Tel: 08457 909090

University Counselling Service: 2-3 Benet Place Lensfield Road Cambridge CB2 1EL Tel: 01223 332865