Students demand Bristol sign zero-suicide pledge

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By Ed Southgate, co-Editor in Chief

Students are demanding Bristol becomes the first university to make a Zero-Suicide Pledge.

The petition, set up by student group Support Our Services, comes after Norman Lamb MP called on all universities to make such a pledge earlier this year. In an exclusive interview with Epigram at the time, Mark Ames, Director of Student Services, 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' when pushed on whether the University would sign one.

Support Our Services have now given clarity on what it would look like. A spokesperson said: 'This Pledge would promise the implementation of Suicide Awareness training across the institution, promote the Zero Suicide Message as a key goal of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, encourage staff to be open and reach out when they suspect that others are at risk and ultimately work closely with organisations such as the Zero Suicide Alliance'.

The group believe that 'more could still be done to prevent student suicides'. They argue that signing the pledge 'would show true commitment to the seriousness of the issue and allow for constructive and positive dialogue to take place.'

Mr Ames previously told Epigram that the University would be 'very open' to offering suicide-awareness to all students and staff. It came after this publication uncovered that, despite the University's new Suicide Prevention and Response Plan promising that everyone within the university community from cleaners to students to academic staff would receive the training, it is only currently delivered to senior residents.

Advocates for all students receiving the training argue that those living in private accommodation in second and third year do not have access to senior residents, meaning it is often other students and housemates who can be the first to notice if someone is struggling.

Earlier this year, the University published its Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. It identifies eight key areas which it will use to ensure students are fully supported during their time at Bristol; Transitions, Prevention, Early Intervention, Support, Staff, Partnerships, Data and Research, and Leadership.

Some initiatives are intended to be rolled out in September for the new academic year, including clearer signposting of what support is available and how to access it, while others will take longer before they are implemented.

In two years, 11 students are thought to have died by suicide. Last year, Support Our Services organised two marches demanding the University improve its mental health provision.

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, said: 'We are fully committed to working with Support Our Services and will consider the petition as part of our ongoing review of the University's approach to mental health and wellbeing.'

Featured Image: Epigram / Ed Southgate


AUTHOR

Ed Southgate

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