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University hit by suicides will flag students suspected of a breakdown

UK university blighted by string of suicides will flag students who haven’t logged on to campus computer system in a while because they might be having a breakdown

  • University of the West of England to introduce major campaign to help students
  • Staff at the Bristol-based college will check frequency of log-ins to flag up issues
  • Students who are struggling will be contacted and offered help to lower stress 
  • Scheme launched after 14 students at UWE killed themselves in just eight years 

A university rocked by 14 suicides in eight years has announced it will monitor student use of online academic resources to check for signs of mental breakdown.

The University of the West of England said it will keep track of how often youngsters are logging into the university online portal for services such as course materials or the library.

Any student who has not logged in for a long time will be flagged as potentially in trouble.

Part of the campus of the University of the West of England, in Bristol. The monitoring programme has been introduced after 14 students killed themselves in just eight years

This will trigger a phone call from a member of staff, who will offer the student mental health support if needed.

The announcement came as the Bristol-based university released an official report into the 14 student deaths from 2010 to 2018. It found eight had already sought help for mental health issues.

Half of the group had also re-sat exams or submitted ‘extenuating circumstances forms’ during their university time.

The deaths were mainly among white male students whose average age was 21.

In response to the tragedies, the university is implementing a number of well-being measures, including alcohol-free zones where students can socialise.

The report said the new ‘learner analytics system’ will help staff find out if the ‘level of academic engagement is lower than expected’. Since the university began piloting this technology last September, 50 per cent of students identified by the software have taken up the offer of extra help.

Staff are introducing monitoring measures at the university’s online portal so they can identify students who are struggling and offer them extra help to combat the stress [File photo]

Jo Mitchell, who is in charge of student experience at UWE, told BBC Radio Bristol: ‘When we contacted students because it looked like something wasn’t quite right, 50 per cent actually did need additional help.

‘Most of that was help and support with academic study because they had some concerns about time management. It wasn’t anything more serious than that. But it still meant that we could help them before that anxiety became more difficult for them.’

UWE vice-chancellor Steve West stressed the suicide rate was lower than in wider society. He stressed: ‘In many ways, it’s safer to come to university than actually to remain in a local community.’

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