Researchers from Hong Kong University analysed figures from the Office for National Statistics and found the suicide rate of students rose by 56% between 2007 and 2016, overtaking the suicide rate of young adults who didn’t attend higher education.
The statistics, reported by the BBC, revealed that the UK student suicide rate rose from 6.6 people per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.3 people per 100,000 in 2016.
In 2016, the suicide rate for male students was 15.7 per 100,000 people, while for male non-students aged 20-24 it was 14.8 per 100,000 people. For female students, the suicide rate was 6 per 100,000 people, while for female non-students aged 20-24 it was 5.7 per 100,000.
It is not clear what age the students were and also what type of student they were - for example, studying at university or another form of study.
Edward Pinkney, a Hong Kong University graduated who co-authored the analysis alongside Raymond Kwok, said: “Concerns about students’ mental health have been increasing since the economic recession, but until now there has been no comprehensive analysis of UK student suicide data.
“This is the first time we can conclusively say that as far as suicide is concerned, there is a real problem in higher education.”
Tom Madders, director of communications at YoungMinds, told HuffPost UK that while university can be generally quite exciting it can also be a very “difficult and lonely experience” for some.
“Living away from home for the first time, making new friends, dealing with financial struggles, having problems with relationships or finding that courses aren’t what you expect can all add a lot of pressure onto a student,” he said.
“Any suicide is an unspeakable tragedy, and the sheer number of student suicides in recent years has to be a national concern.
“The reasons for feeling suicidal are complicated and multiple, but it’s crucial that a young person struggling with their mental health is able to reach out before they reach crisis point. With NHS services often badly overstretched, it’s important that universities are able to offer early support to students who need it, and we also need the Government to start looking seriously how the mental health needs of 18-25 year olds, including students, can be met.”
Last year a study by the IPPR thinktank revealed the number of first-year students with a mental health problem had risen fivefold in a decade, reaching 15,395 people. Analysts also found that a record 134 students died by suicide in 2015.
At the time, IPPR senior research fellow Craig Thorley said universities must support these students, “including, where appropriate, through referral into specialist care”.
The full findings of this latest research will be presented at the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s annual conference in New Zealand in May.
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.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org