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Bristol University faces crisis as suicide rates increase over exam period.

Bristol University faces crisis as suicide rates increase over exam period.

Your summer term at university is always bittersweet. The nostalgia of finishing another year combined with the stress that final exams cause can be hard to deal with. Unfortunately, at Bristol University students are struggling with more than just the pressure of revision.

Over Bristol University’s most recent 3-week study period, there have been three sudden student deaths. This has caused the number of student deaths at the university to rise to 10 in just over 18 months. Tragically, several of these deaths were suicides.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol told The Guardian, “There’s a real sense of anxiety and worry, which is entirely appropriate. When you have three deaths in such quick succession – at any time of year, but especially just coming up to exams – it’s a worrying time for the institution.”

Bristol students have become enraged at, what they allege are, severely underfunded and understaffed mental health services. At present, students can face a six-week waiting list for counselling, a period far too long for those facing potentially fatal mental health crises. In fact, it is not just the students who are suffering. Several pastoral staff members are also on anti-depressants and regularly call the Samaritans for support.

Ruth Day, a 19-year-old student at the university experienced the dark side of lacking mental health support. Struggling through her first year at university, Ruth attempted an overdose to take her own life. After which, Ruth was asked to leave the university and return home, being deemed a danger to herself and other students by Bristol University’s fitness-to-study procedure. Day was only permitted to return to study after she appeared before a fitness-to-study panel, who asked several questions to ascertain the stability of Day’s mental health. Day described the whole endeavour as ‘intimidating’, hardly aiding the recuperation process for her mental health.

The university claims to be investing an additional £1 million on wellbeing services. However, this is greatly overshadowed by their £300 million budget for the construction of the new Temple Quarter campus. This move has left many students in disarray, criticising the university for making improvements that will attract new students when they are not sufficiently caring for undergraduates currently enrolled at Bristol.

Ed Southgate, a Second Year English student had struggled with mental health issues in the past. Southgate told The Guardian, “We want him [Brady] to deal with the wellbeing of his current students before he brings in more and more students who may also be suffering. The support available is good. The problem is there’s not enough of it. He should make sure there are enough services for the people who are here before recruiting more students.”

Extra procedures have been put in place to provide much-needed support for students during this stressful time. The university has introduced new daily drop-in sessions with mental health charities and are providing an additional 1,800 hours of counselling services.

However, this did not seem to satisfy Bristol university students, 400-500 of whom took to the streets last Friday to protest against deteriorating mental health services at university.

Vice-Chancellor Brady retorted, “We are very aware of the depth of feeling among students. Some students are very upset and concerned and want to ensure that the correct level of resource is put in place. They are really worried about their mental health and that of their colleagues. It’s something we are in dialogue with them about.”

If you have suffered with mental health problems and are in need of additional support, contact the Samaritans on 116 123.