Director of Student Services 'very open' to suicide awareness training for all students


By Ed Southgate, co-Editor in Chief

Bristol's Director of Student Services is 'very open' to encouraging all students to undergo online suicide awareness training.

In October, Bristol published a Suicide Prevention and Response Plan, which works alongside the newly-published Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in a push from the University to improve its wellbeing support.

The plan says that everyone within the university community from cleaners to students to Wellbeing professionals will be trained in suicide-awareness. Students in senior positions, such as Senior Residents in halls, have been given online training, but Mr Ames admitted that there 'there is not a concrete plan yet' to focus on giving this to every student.

He said that he is 'very open' to looking at the possibilities of expanding the training to the student body to enable housemates, classmates and friends in societies to spot when someone may be struggling.

Such a move would likely be welcomed by those who argue that while Senior Residents are a necessary support for first years in halls, it might take a housemate of a second or third year student living in private accommodation to first notice if they display signs of suicidal thoughts.

Currently discussions surrounding an action plan that underlies the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy is taking place with the SU and students.

Mr Ames said that it 'may well be that one of the things that could easily come out of the current discussions about the action plan is a recommendation that we highlight to students to use some of those open access resources' that provide suicide awareness training.

The online training is provided for by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust.

It comes as Bristol is under increased scrutiny for its mental health provision and commitment to supporting student wellbeing. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb recently spoke at a Bristol panel and urged the University to make a 'zero-suicide pledge'.

Mr Ames questioned what such a pledge would look like. 'Clearly we are aiming for what Norman Lamb is encouraging universities to aim for', he said, emphasising that he would 'have to see what that "zero-suicide pledge" actually meant in reality'.

The Suicide Prevention and Response Plan is intended to work alongside the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which was put together with the SU after a consultation where 200 students provided feedback.

It sets out a number of strategic changes the university will implement over the next few years in adopting a 'whole-institution approach' to mental health. More information of the Strategy can be found here.

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Ed Southgate

former co-Editor in Chief 2018-2019 | former Editor of Epigram Comment 2017-2018 | UoB English student 2016-19 | Twitter: @ed_southgate