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UoB contacted 36 parents to warn of suicide risk last year, as part of new scheme

The university are ‘hoping to pick up students in difficulty at an earlier stage’

The University of Bristol contacted the parents of 36 students to alert them to serious concerns regarding their children, in the first year of a new system designed to combat the mental health crisis.

Last year, 94 per cent of students opted in to the pioneering scheme while completing the university’s compulsory online registration form.

If a student who has opted in to this process hasn’t been seen in halls for a period of time, has an existing illness that is worsening, or is experiencing a mental health crisis, the university may notify their designated contact. An emergency contact could be told that a student would benefit from taking a break from their studies to return home.

This change in policy was developed following the suspected suicides of 11 students in two years at The University of Bristol.

The parents of English student Ben Murray, specifically requested the new system following the death of their son in May last year. Ben had notified the university that he was struggling with his academic work as well as his mental health, but was expelled. His parents believe that had the university informed them of Ben’s situation, he may still be alive.

Regarding the introduction of the new scheme, Mark Ames, Director of Student Services told The Times that the university are “hoping to pick up students in difficulty at an earlier stage and to make sure we’re helping them to draw on as much support available to them, and thereby trying to head off things developing into a more difficult or complex situation, or even perhaps a crisis situation.

“But the opt-in means that we can have that conversation with the student in advance of that stage to see if involving the emergency contact earlier might help the student to engage with the support and hopefully avoid the need of us to consider them needing to take some time out.”

Other universities are now considering following suit and looking to adopt a similar schemes.