A photograph of a room filled with empty chairs and graduation gowns has been shared to raise awareness of student suicide on University Mental Health Day.
Suicide prevention charity Papyrus teamed up with The Student Room to share the photo project ‘Seats of silence’. The 95 graduation gowns represent each life lost to suicide in the space of one year.
The image, taken by David McHugh, has been released on the same day that figures obtained by HuffPost UK showed the number of students accessing mental health support at top universities increased by 76% on average between 2012-13 and 2017-18.
Rising demand for campus counselling comes amid a backdrop of financial pressure, potential reductions in tuition fees, and shortages of mental health nurses and psychologists, leaving some students feeling unsupported as they struggle to get help.
The Student Room and Papyrus based the photo on the latest ONS statistics, which show the rate of suicides among higher education students in the UK between July 2016 and 2017 equated to 95 deaths. Male higher education students had a significantly higher rate of suicide compared with female students.
They hope to draw attention to the severity of mental health issues amongst UK students and encourage more conversation to help reduce the stigma that surrounds it.
Mhairi Underwood, head of community at The Student Room said: “From dealing with anxiety around exams and loneliness, to helping friends with thoughts of suicide, students need support in overcoming mental health challenges.
“We want to encourage two-way conversations and provide young people with a safe space where they feel able to share their concerns, however big or small.”
Kelly Thorpe, head of helpline services at Papyrus, added that greater awareness of the help and support available to students, such as Papyrus helpline services, can encourage a “suicide-safer” university environment.
Representatives from both groups contributed to a live Q&A panel on 7 March, where students had the opportunity to ask questions surrounding mental health, university support and how to manage their own health at university.
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
If you, or a young person you know, would like confidential suicide prevention advice contact Papyrus on 0800 068 4141 or email@example.com.