After seven students from the University of Bristol took their own lives in less than 18 months, the university's Vice-Chancellor has finally decided to do something about it - albeit controversially - and it's about time other institutions across the country followed suit.

The Guardian report that the number of students who disclose having a mental health problem in their first year has risen fivefold and reached 15,395 in the past decade whereas the rate of Student suicides has risen to it's highest rate since 2007, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), with 134 students taking their own lives in 2015 alone.

What is causing the rise of suicides?

The alarming rise of students taking their own lives has been attributed to a combination of social media pressures, increased awareness of mental health issues, student debt and the uncertainty of the world for young people, with political turmoil home and abroad and global warming.

Mental health issues have already led to a record number of students with mental health problems dropping out of university in 2015.

Indeed, 26 percent of students were also using or waiting to use university counselling services during their time at university whilst separate research in the form of a 2016 YouGov survey found that 27 percent of students have a mental health problem.

The report also revealed that female first-year students were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to disclose a mental health condition in 2015-16, whereas four years previously both were equally likely.

Additionally, the report revealed that 94 percent of the 58 higher education institutions surveyed had seen a jump in demand for counselling services over the past five years, while 61 percent had seen demand jump by more than a quarter.

What is currently being done to tackle this?

Despite the high number of suicides across universities, only 29 percent have an explicit strategy on student mental health and well-being, according to the report.

Bristol University's Vice-Chancellor, Hugh Brady, has introduced a "whole institutional" model of pastoral care to tackle student mental health and suicides and will be spending an increase from £2.6 million to £2.9 million which follows on from the £1m wellbeing strategy introduced last autumn.

The latest version will add a new tier of professional support with full-time trained staff in three “student support centres” in the three main groupings of residential halls, available around the clock, 365 days a year.

However, he has come under fire for axing the number of academics who act as Wardens from nine to three across the university, a move which is being opposed by 92.1% of voting students.

In response to this, the Vice-Chancellor insists that the new model will improve on the old system and says that student wardens may not be able to fulfill the role to the best of their ability as they are doing this on top of their full-time jobs and are often unavailable during evenings and weekends.

Following the backlash, the university has added that there will be Senior Residents made up of students who work part-time as live-in peer mentors alongside Chief Residents who will be made-up of senior post-graduates who have already been senior residents in the past and has boosted the number of live-in mentors to 120 from a proposed 54.

What else needs to be done?

The moves that the University of Bristol is making to deal with the recent spate of student suicides at the institution are tailored to their current situation but regardless they must be learnt from by the rest of the universities across the country.

The report's recommendations include introducing a new NHS Student Health Fund and a new student premium to top up funding for GP practices which have a high proportion of patients who are students and finding and accessing better national data on which interventions have been most effective thus far.

Universities UK has also said that student mental health is "a strategic priority" and has introduced its own framework to guide universities when embedding mental health resources across their campuses.

Where can you get help?

Although it's not always easy to tell when someone is at risk of suicide, here are some warning signs to look out for in others:

  • Loss of energy
  • Appearing more tearful
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
  • Appearing restless and agitated
  • Not liking or taking care of themselves; feeling they don't matter
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Becoming withdrawn and losing touch with friends and family

The NHS website also offers a lot of advice on how to best help someone who is suicidal.

If you are feeling suicidal yourself, you can call The Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123, email or visit their website.