Uni reveals shocking extent of suicide attempts and self-harm amongst students

Figures released by the University of York for Mental Health Awareness Week have shown the shocking extent of incidents of self-harm at the University, and across UK universities as a whole.

Half of all ambulance call-outs to the University of York this year were for incidents of self-harm or suicide attempts, according to the report put together by the University's student mental ill-health task group.

Between the 1st January and the 8th February 2016 there were 12 emergency calls to ambulances from the University for self-harm or suicide attempts, out of 24 calls to the emergency services in total.

In 2015 there were 134 calls to ambulances at the University, of which 42 were for suicide attempts or self-harm. In 2014 there were 158 ambulance callouts, with 22 callouts for self-harm or suicide attempts.

The York report says their experience is typical of other universities around the UK. Figures by the Office of National Statistics show that 109 students committed suicide in 2012, with a further 100 in 2013.

"Noticeable increase in complex mental health crises" in UK unis

The report, which the Vice-Chancellor shared with students for Mental Health Awareness Week, stated that the "prevalence and severity" of student mental health problems are getting worse.

The report looked at information gathered from 50 UK universities' student services around the UK, and found a "noticeable increase in complex mental health crises" in 2015 compared with 2014.

In almost 90% of universities, staff reported working incidents of self-harm or suicide attempts, either with the police or a coroner during 2015.

Under pressure

The reports suggests that students can suffer from "misguided sense of perfectionism" and feeling under pressure to succeed at everything. When they are unable to live up to these high standards, it can leave them with feelings of "low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and hopelessness".

As well as this, young people can feel isolated being away from home for the first time, and have worries over money problems and debt.

The report also states that social media, cyberbullying and online victimisation can be a significant cause of students' problems.

York have called for more action to be taken on mental health, asking for more "first contact" staff support in dealing with crises, an advice website for students experiencing mental health problems, and a more co-ordinated approach with local NHS services.

Suffering in silence

Meradith Leston, supporter of charity Student Minds and current student at Oxford said there is a "big mental health problem in universities" that's concealed and unsupported.

"Mental illness remains greatly stigmatised," she told BBC News.

"Opening up about mental difficulties is one of the hardest things a young person can do."

"Struggling mentally is considered a sign of personal weakness as opposed to the legitimate health concern it really is."

"As such, young people are more likely to continue blaming themselves for their own problems rather than opening up and seeking help for it."

"This just produces a generation suffering in silence."

York's vice-chancellor, Koen Lamberts, said he wanted to make the report public in order to remove the stigma of talking about mental health issues.

"We wanted our staff and students to feel able to talk about what that means for the university," he said, adding the report "highlights a growing issue, not just for universities but for society as a whole".

"Rates of mental ill-health are increasing."

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, joined the call for universities to be more open about the problem:

"We need much greater candour about mental health problems, and universities can lead the way," he said.

"It is much more prevalent than many would like to admit."

If you are having mental health issues, check out the Mental Health Foundation's resources or book an appointment to talk about it, or seek counselling through your student services.