Suicide rate suggests rise in problem student intake

May 12, 2000

Six apparent student suicides in the city of Edinburgh in the past six months appear to be bearing out fears of a rise in the number of severely disturbed students.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has just issued guidelines on student mental health policies, in response to a report from the Heads of University Counselling Services that warned of substantial evidence that more students were suffering from mental disturbance.

This is confirmed by Craig McDevitt, co-director of student counselling at Edinburgh University, where four students have died during this academic year.

"What is beginning to emerge in our statistics is more students with greater levels of anxiety and depression and behaviours that cause disturbance within their community," he said.

The incidence of suicides in Edinburgh is higher than normal - an institution with 25,000 students could expect two or three suicides a year. But this is still lower than figures for the same age group in the population at large, where the onset of psychotic illness generally affects 18 to 21-year-olds.

"There is evidence to suggest that people with mental health problems who have had some treatment are encouraged to take up higher education, on the premise that a university is a relatively protected and structured environment, and can increase self-esteem," Mr McDevitt said.

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