It’s that time of year when thousands of young people across the UK begin a new chapter by setting off for university and college. Throughout September, PAPYRUS’s team in Northern Ireland have been invited to attend over 20 fresher fair events across universities and colleges in the North. Our team has been meeting students, informing them of the work we do in suicide prevention in Northern Ireland, and engaging with the staff at all sites.

In 2018, the University of Ulster conducted research on “Mental health, self-harm & suicide in university students in Northern Ireland,” which found the overall prevalence rate for experiencing any lifetime mental health disorders was 53.2%. The highest prevalence rates were found for panic attacks (41.2%), suicidality (31%), major depressive episode (24.2%), and generalised anxiety disorder (22.6%) among students in Northern Ireland.

PAPYRUS, as a dedicated suicide prevention organisation, fully understands the importance of reaching these students early to let them know there is support and hope for those dealing with suicide in Northern Ireland.

Over the past month, we have been engaging, providing information, and educating new students and staff from Northern Regional College in Magherafelt and Ballymoney to Belfast Metropolitan College Titanic Quarter and Southern Regional College in Newry and Banbridge. As a result, young people have been contacting our helpline, HOPELINE247, picking up literature, and responding to a short survey at the stands related to suicide prevention in Northern Ireland.

The impact of a conversation at a PAPYRUS stand in beating the stigma around suicide and promoting suicide prevention in Northern Ireland is truly significant. Some young people have opened up to us about how they practice self-care and where they go when they need help, while others have found the stall to be a safe space to tell us about their grief or suicidal ideation.

Some examples from over the month involve:

  • One young woman (under 21) was already familiar with PAPYRUS, as our charity had supported her after she lost her father to suicide.
  • Another young person told us, “I don’t need this service now, but now I know that if I do, you can be there”.
  • A staff member approached the stand and said, “I will fire these posters around the campus and will make sure student services know about PAPYRUS”.

Over the month, students across Northern Ireland have been signing up to volunteer with PAPYRUS in their local area, supporting us by putting up posters, disseminating information, and attending events. Their contribution will go a long way to help PAPYRUS create suicide-safer communities and reduce young suicides across Northern Ireland and UK wide.

Thank you to all the students and staff who have engaged with us, the PAPYRUS NI team who supported all these events, and the universities and colleges in Northern Ireland who have invited us in to work on suicide prevention.

  • North West Regional College
  • Northern Regional College
  • South Eastern Regional College
  • Southern Regional College
  • South West College
  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Ulster University
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