Student life under lockdown is threatening the fragile mental health of thousands of young people, according to a leading charity.
PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide is appealing directly to university and college students to look after themselves and help each other through the critical weeks and months ahead.
The national charity says its warning, which coincides with World Mental Health Day at the weekend, also contains the important message that help is available for those who are struggling.
Chief Executive, Ged Flynn, said: “Right now students who have never been to university, or have been away from university and gone back, are suddenly plunged into a new reality that very few of us have ever encountered.
‘Some are in rooms, some are in halls, some are in new accommodation with people they know or don’t know.
“Some are frightened, away from home, trying to navigate new ways of learning and new relationships and that’s incredibly challenging for anyone.
“I say this to all students who are suffering; as a national charity we are here for you and I know that my colleagues in other charities want to say the same. You, as a young person, matter to us and you are not alone.”
PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide says lockdown creates uncertainty for us all, especially students who saw their end-of-school education disrupted who may now be questioning their future career dreams and personal ambitions.
The charity says it will work with universities and colleges, parents and young people to help keep campuses suicide-safe.
Ben Brown, a 22-year-old engineering student from Gloucester, took his own life in April while studying at Loughborough University.
His mother, Helen Hartery-Brown, says students need to support each other, share their feelings and look for signs that could indicate someone is having thoughts of suicide.
“I firmly believe that had we not gone into lockdown Ben would be alive today. It gave him too much time with nothing to do but think. He was completely overwhelmed and didn’t speak to anyone about how he was feeling.
“Ben was his own worst critic. He thought his problems were the worst and to him they were insurmountable. Even though he was a very intelligent young man he chose not to ask for help and we don’t know why.
“We all have to open up, talk about mental health and learn about suicide first-aid, how to listen and spot the signs.
“I would hate for another family to feel like we do and if these words make one young person stop and think, then Ben’s death will not have been in vain,” said Helen.
PAPYRUS and Universities UK (UUK) have published guidance to help prevent student suicide, which includes advice on prevention and intervention.
The Suicide-Safer Universities guide includes a checklist highlighting how institutions of higher education can make their student communities safer and how they can develop a strategy focussed specifically on prevention.
Ged Flynn says there has never been a more important time to promote World Mental Health Day on 10 October and everyone has a role to play in helping to save student lives.
“We’ve never been here before. Lockdown calls upon new strengths new skills and new attitudes in all of us.
“Please, if you are a person who is in a new lockdown situation, particularly if you are a young person and a student, and you are struggling with your own mental health, please know that you are not alone.
“PAPYRUS is here for you and with a bit of hope and a bit of hard work we will get you and each other through lockdown.
“Similarly, if you are worried about a member of your family, a colleague or one of your friends who may be having thoughts of suicide, we will work with you to help keep you and your loved ones safe.”
Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.
HOPELINEUK is the charity’s confidential helpline service providing practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and anyone concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide.
HOPELINEUK is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.
For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice please contact PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org