Fifth Bristol university student takes own life this academic year

Sally Weale Education correspondent
Three Bristol students died late last year in their first term at university while a final-year student died in January Photograph: Loop Images/Simon Montgomery/Getty Images/Passage

A third-year languages student is understood to have killed herself in the fifth case this year of suspected suicide involving students at the University of Bristol.

Elsa Scaburri, who was studying for a degree in French and Italian, was halfway through her year abroad. According to a statement released by the university, she died last week near her home, which is understood to be in Wiltshire.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned. A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We were very saddened to hear that one of our third-year students, Elsa Scaburri, sadly died near her home last week.

“We understand from her family that Elsa took her own life, although it will be for the coroner to determine the cause of death.

“Elsa was halfway through a year abroad as part of her French and Italian degree. The university offers its condolences to her family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.”

Her death will once again raise concerns about mental health among students and the capacity of universities to address growing demand for support.

Three Bristol students – philosophy student Miranda Williams, 19, history student Daniel Green, 18, and Kim Long, 18, who was studying law, died late last year in their first term at university. Final-year neuroscience student Lara Nosiru, 23, also studying at Bristol and originally from Essex, was found dead in Avon Gorge in January.

Following last year’s deaths, the university said it did not believe there was a link between any of the incidents and insisted annual figures did not show any trends. In the last academic year Bristol had one death by suicide; there were none the year before that, and one the previous year.

A review has been under way at Bristol to find out how best to support students with mental health needs. The number of staff in support services has been increased and additional funding has been put into the system to meet growing demand.

A Guardian investigation last year revealed that the number of students seeking counselling at university has risen by 50% in the past five years. And a report in September by the Higher Education Policy Institute thinktank said some institutions needed to triple their spending on mental health services to meet increased demand.

Students have a lower suicide rate than the general population, but it appears to have grown. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2014 there were 130 deaths by suicide of full-time students aged 18 and over in England and Wales. This compares with 112 in 2011, and 75 in 2007. The increase can be explained in part by the growing university population, which has doubled since 1997 and now stands at 2 million.

“The welfare of our students and staff continues to be our highest priority and it is distressing for all members of the university community that one of our students has died,” the University of Bristol spokesperson said. “We would urge any students affected by this tragic incident to seek support from university services, friends or family.

“In the context of increasing national concerns about student mental health we have been working with our staff and students to review how best to support all students including those with enduring mental health difficulties.

“We have increased staffing levels in our support services and have committed to invest an additional £1m per year to provide wellbeing support for students in each academic school. We will also be signing the Time to Change pledge to help reduce the stigma of discussing mental health issues.”

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here


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