Bristol University introduces mental health staff in halls of residence after series of suicides

Bristol University has seen a series of tragic suicides within the last year (Getty Images)

Bristol University is introducing full-time mental health staff in all halls of residence, following a series of suicides in the student population.

Since 2016, 11 students have died as a result of suicide at the university.

In a message released on World Mental Health Day, Professor Hugh Brady, Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor and President, laid out a series of measures to tackle the crisis in mental health.

These include:

  •  an opt-in service where students can allow the university to contact a nominated third party about concerns regarding their mental health
  • introducing full-time professional staff in all halls of residence to help identify and support vulnerable students
  • introducing similar trained staff in all academic departments to work with tutors
  • improving GP and counselling services to ensure same-day treatment is available where required
  • a new curriculum initiative focusing on wellbeing and resilience, available to all students
English student Ben Murray died as a result of suicide in May

The father of Ben Murray, who died as a result of suicide in May this year, has been campaigning for a change in the law so that parents of struggling students can be told about concerns regarding their mental health.

His father James Murray said: “Having gone through all the different moments when we could have intervened to save our son’s life, it’s absolute nonsense that you would look at an issue and say: ‘You’re an adult therefore data privacy applies’.

“Data privacy that may cause the vulnerable to lose their lives makes no sense at all.”

Announcing the measures, Professor Brady said today: “As the new academic year commences, the wellbeing of our students remains firmly at the forefront of all our minds following a number of student deaths by suicide over the past two years. Every student death is a tragedy in its own right.

“To have a number in quick succession tears at the very heart of our University and our thoughts remain with their families and friends.

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“Throughout the last two years, we have often found ourselves in the national spotlight when it comes to student wellbeing because of a number of tragic student deaths by suicide. At times we have felt like a lightning rod for this issue which sadly affects all UK universities and the wider community.

“As young people are especially vulnerable to suicide coverage we take the reporting of it very seriously. Significant guidelines have been developed for media around the reporting of these issues, from agencies such as the Samaritans, and we work hard to be sensitive towards those involved.”

The move comes on the day Theresa May announced the appointment of the UK’s first suicide prevention minister.

Jackie Doyle-Price will be tasked with tackling the stigma that surrounds suicide.

The Prime Minister also pledged £1.8 million to fund the Samaritans helpline for the next four years.