For the first time in UK history, it has come to the public’s attention that suicide rates amongst students have topped those of non-students. The figures have risen by 56% between 2007 and 2016, according to a conference in New Zealand, and though it is not specified what type of students are affected, we can see that a crisis is taking place, and something needs to be done now.
“Every person’s experience of mental illness is personal and cannot be covered generically”
I’ve luckily been fortunate enough to have never suffered from suicidal thoughts. I understand that this is an extremely sensitive topic that needs to be dealt with delicately. Topics like these however, cannot be shied away from and so it is my attempt to bring light to this issue from a student’s perspective. Every person’s experience of mental illness is personal and cannot be covered generically. To say that we can box people up into a single category and simply say that they’re all suicidal for the exact same reason would be an over-simplification and so if the information that I give you reads like that, I can only apologise in advance.
There are a million and one things running through a person’s mind when they attempt suicide and the charity MIND has attempted to pinpoint a few. A lot of us will feel that we are a victim of some of these reasons, at one time or another, however if it is getting to the point where these thoughts are consuming your life and impeding your academics, it is vital that you seek help from Samaritans, your local GP or even a University of Nottingham student councillor. Feelings of isolation or loneliness are suggested as being one of the major causes of suicidal thoughts. Perhaps the transition from a nurtured homely environment buzzing with siblings and parents to a single student room in a university filled with thousands of people might make a student feel this way. It may seem counterintuitive to say that you feel lonely in a place filled with thousands of other people your age, but the feeling of isolation is only increased when you see everyone around you socialising and you’re alone stuck in your room writing a piece of coursework.
“Part of the nature of university life means that you are constantly comparing yourself to your peers”
Achieving high grades alongside securing aspirations for the future are intrinsic to university life and unfortunately this is directly linked to another cause of suicide which is feeling inadequate or a failure. Part of the nature of university life means that you are constantly comparing yourself to your peers in a way that is almost akin to your lecturers who are marking you against your fellow students. This constant cycle of comparing yourself to your more successful friends can lead to unbearable feelings of inadequacy amongst university students. Social media also plays a massive part in feelings of failure. Exposure to a friend’s photos over Facebook or Instagram can lead students to feel as if they are unsuccessful by comparison. This filtered array of the best parts of people’s lives can force students to question why their experience at university is not as good as those that surround them, and this can slowly descend into self-hatred and lack of belonging.
Unfortunately, it has been proven that the people that are most at risk of suicidal tendencies are men and members of LGBTQ community. Often students find themselves coming out for the first time in university, perhaps in an environment that they will feel less judged. However, without having someone close to talk about the issues that they are newly facing, they may feel isolated further and tragically assume that suicide is the best escape. This is not the case though and must be stressed. The University of Nottingham is host to many inclusive societies with one of them being LGBT+ Network which lends a helping hand to many individuals who have struggled with coming out.
Talking is a huge way of overcoming suicidal hurdles and due to media portrayal and vast stigma, men are the second major target of suicide. Again, from a total outsider’s perspective, I believe men have often been raised to believe that they should internalise their feelings. In university, of all places, this can be an extremely harmful process and it is important that when undergoing intense levels of pressure from exam stress or coursework deadlines we feel free to discuss our concerns. MIND considers a few reasons as to why men may feel this way and have suggested that they worry that they will appear weak if they seek support or talk about their feelings.
It is important to remember, however, that all students are at risk.
“1000 words is not nearly enough to discuss how critical this issue is and vital it is to address”
Evidently suicidal tendencies are on the rise in the student population and, as students ourselves, we must take action to end the stigma around mental illness so that it can be discussed more regularly and be treated. The reasons that I have covered above are by no means the only ones and I have only covered two of the most common causes amongst students. 1000 words is not nearly enough to discuss how critical this issue is and how vital it is to address.
As students we all have different experiences of university life and some of these can be a contributing factor towards rising suicide rates. However, we must all work together to lend support to those who need help.
Below are some links that might be useful to you if you think that some of the topics I’ve covered apply to you:
Featured image courtesy of ‘Helen Harrop’ via Flickr. Image not altered. Image licence found here.