Responding to Student Suicide
Nicky Stanley and Jill Manthorpe
The phenomenon of student suicide has attracted increasing public concern, sustained in recent years by media coverage of a number of tragic cases. This chapter concludes the final section of this book by examining ways in which higher education institutions (HEIs) can respond to student suicide through developing a focus both on individual students who may be vulnerable and on the needs of staff and students following a suicide. Having considered the extent of suicide and some of the research in this area, we will report the findings of a small-scale study, which offer some indications as to the directions further research and policy developments might take. This study was the fruit of the earlier research project on students' mental health needs described briefly in Chapter 1 (see also, Stanley et al. 2000; Stanley and Manthorpe 2001).
When undertaking this research, we were struck by the very vivid accounts of some academics who had supervised students who had taken their own lives. These accounts, often describing events many years distant, left us with the impression that HEIs had not, in the past, offered those affected by student suicides much in the way of support or even debriefing. The study was designed therefore to explore two aspects of student suicide: first, whether it was possible to distinguish factors which contributed to individual students' vulnerability to suicide and which HEIs could feasibly be expected to identify and act upon; second, the response of the institution to the event of a student suicide.