Universities do have a suicide problem, researchers have said, as a study shows that the number of students taking their own lives has overtaken the general population for first time.
Research by the Hong Kong-based Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention found that the suicide rate among UK students had risen by 56 per cent in the 10 years between 2007 and 2016, from from 6.6 to 10.3 per 100,000 people.
The student suicide rate in 2016 was 9 per cent higher than in 2015 and 25 per cent higher than 2012, when it was 8.3.
ONS figures show that the average suicide rate among the general population of 15-19 year olds was 5.9, while the rate for 20-24 year-olds was 10.4.
Female students experienced a particularly striking rise in suicide, with the rate more than doubling in the five years between 2012 and 2016, from 22 suicides in 2012 to 51 in 2016.
Dr Raymond Kwok, of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, HKU, said there had been a “significant trend in rising suicides for UK female students, with the exception of those in Scotland.”
Edward Pinkney, who co-authored the analysis, said: “Concerns about students’ mental health have been increasing since the economic recession, but until now there has been no comprehensive analysis of UK student suicide data.
Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham and a campaigner on student well-being, told the BBC: “Student suicide rates and emotional distress levels could be reduced at university if we acted differently.
“More support in transitions, better tutoring and early warning, more peer to peer support, an enhanced sense of belonging, would all enhance wellbeing and reduce risk.
We are obsessed by reactive policy once students hit the bottom of the waterfall; we need to be putting preventative policies in place to prevent them ever tipping over the edge.”
Last year ONS figures showed that suicide among women in their early twenties was at its highest level in two decades.
The analysis took into account a rise in the number of students attending university, quashing theories that levels had increased because of higher numbers of students.
The findings are set to be presented in full at the International Association for Suicide Prevention annual conference in New Zealand in May.