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New guidance for universities in bid to prevent student suicides

(Chris Young/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

New guidance has been issued to universities dedicated to the prevention of student suicide.

It was launched in Sheffield at the Universities UK (UUK) annual conference where it was also announced that new guidance is being worked on for the disclosure of confidential data.

At least 95 university students took their own lives in the last academic year, and UUK said there is no room for complacency.

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James Murray, whose son Ben Murray took his own life at Bristol University in May, said there was “too little information sharing” between universities and families.

Speaking at Sheffield Hallam University, he said: “We hear a lot talked about data privacy, we get fixated.

“We need to start giving more priority on information sharing to save lives.”

He added: “If we had had more information maybe would have intervened, maybe things would have been different.”

Nina Clarke, deputy chief executive of Papyrus, said: “When lives are at risk, normal confidentiality rules can, and should be bypassed.

“So universities UK will be working with students parents and carers, legal and health experts and the Government to produce guidance regarding disclosure in the next two months.”

Professor Steve West, vice chancellor of UWE Bristol and chair of UUK’s Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, said: “When students take their own lives, it has a profound impact on family, friends, staff and students.

“This new guide offers practical advice on understanding and preventing suicide, as well as guidance on how best to support those most affected.

“We urge university leaders to work with their student support services to develop a strategy which focuses on preventing, intervening, and responding to suicide as part of an overall mental health strategy.”

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Together with charity Papyrus, UUK has published the Suicide Safer Universities which includes advice on developing a strategy focused specifically on suicide prevention.

It covers information on intervening when students get into difficulties, best practice for responding to student suicides and case studies on approaches to suicide prevention.

The guide further includes steps university leaders can take to make their communities safer.