Edmonton

U of A boosting suicide prevention on campus

The “frightening” number of students at the University of Alberta who reported they have tried or thought about suicide is prompting the school to beef up support services.

Number of students who tried or considered ending their life 'frightening'

The “frightening” number of students at the University of Alberta who reported they have tried or thought about suicide is prompting the school to beef up support services.

“We have significant portions of our students who identify struggling with depression or anxiety, suicidal behaviour, severe anger, hopelessness, those kinds of things,” said Robin Everall, acting vice-provost and dean of students.

A national college health assessment survey in 2013 reported 1.4 per cent of University of Alberta students tried to end their lives in the previous 12 months while 8.6 per cent said they've seriously considered suicide.  

“Those are very frightening statistics,” Everall said.

The university has changed dramatically in the last two years how it provides mental health services, she said. For example instead of expecting students to come to staff for help, psychologists were placed nearer the students at the faculty level. 

The university is also designing a suicide prevention program, she said.

The university recently received a small grant from the Bell Let’s Talk program aimed at removing the stigma around mental illness.

Students at the university say they are aware of two suicides on campus in the last few weeks — one in Hub Mall last month and the other last week in Lister Hall.

The university will not confirm the deaths as suicides to protect the privacy of the families, Everall said.

“Whenever a community loses a member of that community, it has ripple effects,” she said.

“It’s far more important to think about what we can do to prevent suicides then how do we deal with it after the fact,” Everall said.

“We need to put structures into place so that our students are supported and don’t get to the point where they are so distressed.”

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