There have been six suicides at Sussex University in the past five years
A member of staff also died by suicide in 2015
In a Freedom of Information request by The Tab, it has been revealed that six Sussex students have died by suicide in the past five years.
The data also found two Sussex staff members, one of which was also a student at the time and has been included in the total, had also died by suicide in 2015.
The statistics showed that since 2012, one student has died each year apart from 2016 where two students have passed.
The FOI takes into account the total amount of suicides of students who are at Sussex, not just those that happen at campus.
Sussex student Morgan Grant died in 2013. He was found in his Norwich House accommodation by a fellow Sussex student. A coroner’s report reveals that he may have died in the early hours of April 10th.
The Tab contacted the university for a comment with regards to the suicide figures. A spokesperson replied: “It’s devastating whenever any person takes their own life and, when this has happened at Sussex, the whole community has been deeply moved and affected.
“This is why we take student mental health extremely seriously. While student suicides are thankfully rare, any instance is one too many and we are determined to do everything possible to support all our students through times of difficulty.
“Our Student Life Centre and Residential Support teams have recently been trained in suicide intervention, meaning we have expert staff on hand 24 hours a day to help students in crisis.”
The university continued to discuss what they are offering to help students: “We’re also investing heavily in widening and improving student counselling and support and are among the country’s biggest spenders on student mental-health services.
“Just in the last couple of months, we have introduced a tile on the Sussex Mobile app – titled ‘Are you struggling to cope?’ – aimed specifically at those in desperate circumstances.”
The university commented on its plans and events to help students with dealing with their mental health: “Students must never feel alone, which is why we have been publishing a number of important blogs by Sussex students on suicide and mental health, and we have been increasingly supporting students who are worried about their friends.
“Later this month, a series of activity is being organised with the Students’ Union for Wellbeing Week, which aims to encourage students to seek support when they need it. An issue of the new student e-magazine Flint will be dedicated to Wellbeing Week.
“Other initiatives such as our support for the NHS’s I Am Whole initiative and University Mental Health Day have also been critical in raising awareness among students and helping to ensure that talking about mental health is something we are encouraging.
“The University reviews its mental health action plan every month, after signing up to the Time to Change pledge in 2013 with the Students’ Union. We will continue to do everything we can in this space – we care about it enormously. We encourage students to become familiar with the services offered through the Student Life Centre and talk to the experts there about their worries, questions or concerns.”
The Sussex Student Life Centre, which is located on the ground floor of Bramber House near Kent House, offers assistance with money, personal issues, any health concerns, and many other problems that students could be facing.
We met up with the head of the Student Life Centre, Rachel, to chat about what the Centre offers.
Graduating with a masters in therapy from Brighton University, Rachel is in charge of the 17 staff who offer advice and support to Sussex students.
Rachel has been working at the Centre for around 20 years. When we asked her what should students do if they are dealing with any problems; whether they be money, family, social, or anything else, she replied:
“I would probably want to encourage them to come to us and talk it through. It really does help to have someone understand your situation and you can trust”
Staff members of the Student Life Centre are trained in Suicide Prevention and offer 15 minute welfare drop-in sessions between 11-4pm during the week.
Rose Taylor, the post-grad education officer in the Students’ Union, had this to comment on the numbers:
“The numbers released in the FOI are upsetting and our thoughts go to any friends or family who have been affected. We would encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to access help as soon as they can. There are services on-campus such as the Student Life Centre, the Student Support Unit and the Counselling Service which can support you and also services in Brighton including Mind who have a range of services that they offer.
“If you, or anyone you know is experience suicidal thoughts, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, call the Sussex Mental Health Helpline on 0300 5000 101 or call 999 if someone is at immediate risk of taking their own life.
“Life as a student or academic can be so isolating and there is a mental health crisis in universities at the moment, for both students and staff. Sadly in many cases individuals feel that there is too much stigma attached to mental health to speak to anyone about their mental health.
“Universities have a duty of care to their staff and students and this should cover mental health support however, in a lot of cases, the support available just isn’t adequate.
“The Students’ Union is currently working with the University to improve the mental health support that’s available to students and staff and to ensure that this support increases in line with increasing student numbers.
The Tab conducted research in 2016 into ranking the satisfaction from mental health services available in universities. The research compiled feedback from students about their satisfaction, the outreach of mental health services, and financing. Sussex university ranked fifth on the list with a overall satisfaction percentage of 77 per cent.
Sussex also has the third most funded mental health service per student behind Oxford and Cambridge according to this research.
The bigger picture
It should be noted that the university should not be the only angle look at. The larger community is also very important.
According to the Office of National Statistics, males account for three-quarters of all suicides with those between the ages of 45-49 at the most vulnerable. Female suicide rates have been the highest for almost a decade.
Samaritans have also provided statistics stating: “In 2014, 6,122 suicides were registered in the UK. This corresponds to a suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people (16.8 per 100,000 for men and 5.2 per 100,000 for women).”
According to the Bexhill Observer, Colm Donaghy, who is the chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said in 2015 the suicide rate in East Sussex is higher than the national average. The national average at the time was 10.4 deaths per 100,000 whereas in Sussex it is 11.
These statistics show the importance of suicide prevention groups such as Place Of Calm, which we reported that it would be facing closure if their funding is stopped at the end of March. You can sign their petition to keep them open here which already has received over 30,000 signatures.
Another Brighton based charity, Grassroots, is a group dedicated in educating people in suicide prevention. If you or someone you know wants to learn suicide prevention tactics then visit their website we have linked.
No one should have to deal with mental health alone and so we urge everyone who feels this way to contact the groups below. We also wish for everyone to take the time out of their day for 20 minutes and chat with friends or those who they have not spoken to in a while to check up on them to see how they are doing. You could save a life.
Samaritans: 116 123
Contact the Sussex Student Life Centre: 01273 876767
Sussex Residential Service: 01273 678220
Sussex Security Office: 01273 873333
Off-campus Sussex university support (JAM) (+44) (0)2089 383873
Sussex Mental Health Helpline: 0300 5000 101