Guidance for universities on preventing student suicides

5 September 2018
Cover of guidance on preventing student suicides

Universities UK (UUK) and PAPYRUS, the UK's national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, have today published new guidance to help university leaders prevent student suicides.

The guide will be launched this afternoon as university leaders meet in Sheffield for UUK's annual conference. Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol, will discuss suicide in the student population alongside Nina Clarke, Deputy CEO of Papyrus and James Murray, father of Ben, who took his own life while a student.

At least 95 university students took their own lives in the last academic year. Although new data published by the Office for National Statistics shows that there is a significantly lower rate of student suicide among university students in England and Wales compared with the general population, university leaders have said that there is no room for complacency.

The guide includes advice on developing a strategy focused specifically on suicide prevention, covering the following areas:

  • Steps to prevent student suicide
  • Intervening when students get into difficulties
  • Best practice for responding to student suicides
  • Case studies on approaches to suicide prevention through partnership working
  • Checklist highlighting steps university leaders can take to make their communities safer

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and Chair of UUK's Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, said: "When students take their own lives, it has a profound impact on family, friends, staff and students. This new guide offers practical advice on understanding and preventing suicide, as well as guidance on how best to support those most affected.

"We urge university leaders to work with their student support services to develop a strategy which focuses on preventing, intervening, and responding to suicide as part of an overall mental health strategy. Students and staff must be at the centre of this, and senior leadership within universities must build on their relationships with local authorities and the NHS to achieve real change."

Nina Clarke, PAPYRUS deputy chief executive said: "PAPYRUS has many years' experience working in community-based suicide prevention initiatives, including universities. We were therefore delighted to be asked to co-produce this guide. Universities UK is in a position to raise greater awareness of the guide among institutions of higher education than we might do on our own. We hope that all universities will step up to this and we stand ready to support them in becoming suicide-safer."

James Murray, father of Ben Murray, said: "Our son Ben was amongst the two thirds of sudden deaths involving students not previously known to support services. We sincerely hope that the number of sudden deaths will reduce over time, but hope is not a strategy, and that's why this guidance is so important."

Notes to editors

  1. The attached guide is a shortened version aimed at university leaders. An extensive guide for university practitioners will be released next week.
  2. In May 2018 UUK published Minding our Future, new guidance to improve the coordination of care between the NHS and universities so that all students can access the care they need.
  3. In September 2017, UUK published a framework to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of university students. The Stepchange framework is aimed at supporting university leaders to help embed good mental health across all university activities.
  4. Universities UK is the collective voice of 137 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit:
  5. In the UK suicide is the main cause of death in young people under 35. Every year over 1,600 take their own lives. PAPYRUS believes that many are preventable. The charity provides practical advice and support – how to cope, what to say and do - to young people and others concerned that a young person may be at risk of killing themselves. For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice contact PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK tel 0800 068 41 41 text 07786 209 697 email

 For media enquiries, please contact Clara Plackett / 020 7419 5568

Papyrus press office
Rosemary Vaux, Press Officer
T: 020 8943 5343 mobile 07799 863 321

 Key Contacts

Steven Jefferies

Steven Jefferies

Head of Media
Universities UK

Eloise Phillips

Eloise Phillips

Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Media Officer
Universities UK



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