Student suicides rise along with debt burdens

The number of students taking their own lives rose by 50 per cent in four years, figures have shown.

The statistics, released via a Freedom of Information request made by Ed Pinkney, the founder of Mental Wealth UK, a student mental health charity, was made public through the Office for National Statistics website last week.

According to the data, between 2007 and 2011 the number of suicides by male students in full-time higher education rose by 36 per cent, from 57 to 78. The number of female student suicides per year almost doubled over that time period, from 18 to 34.

According to Mr Pinkney, the figures come in the light of growing pressures on students caused by rising costs and gloomy job prospects.

Just this week, an example was highlighted in the media of Toby Thorn, who took his life after dropping out of Anglia Ruskin University and struggling with debts of £8,000.

An inquest into his death ruled that his debt had been a major contributory factor in his suicide, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Mr Pinkney cited a study published by the British Medical Journal in August that suggests that the financial crisis may have caused more than 1,000 suicides in the UK.

Last year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a report highlighting the "pressing need" for more to be done around the mental health of students.

Mr Pinkney said: "The RCP's report was welcomed by those working with the mental health of students, but there's little evidence that institutions have taken its recommendations seriously. These new figures reveal the urgency of the problem."

He said that although a larger student body may account for some of the rise in the number of suicides, enrolment of over-18s in full-time education grew by a modest 15 per cent between 2007 and 2011, from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.

However, the ONS warned those interpreting the data on student suicides should be cautious about drawing conclusions on trends due to the relatively small numbers involved.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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