This week SU staff and LSE Residential Life have been holding 3 hour-long suicide awareness and prevention training sessions open to all students. The sessions are delivered by a residential life officer and 5 SU staff members trained by Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide (PIPS) charity. They teach a simple 3 step model to spot the signs of someone at risk, communication skills to safely interact with them, and appropriate contacts to link them to professional help.
Helen Clarke, a Student Advisor at the SU, told the Beaver that these trainings are not a reaction to any particular event. However, they have been aligned with the start of Summer Exams because the SU recognises that this is a time when the risk of depression and other mental health issues is increased for students.
“It’s also a time when students may isolate themselves, and the sessions are centred on feeling confident to communicate and reach out to others,” said Clarke.
The sessions are still in trial period, as the SU plans to run more sessions in the start of the next academic year, possibly after Freshers Week. Like most activities and events at this time of the year, the first training session was attended by only 3 students.
Through a series of interactive group activities and presentations, the training sessions aim to show students that suicide is not the only answer, “it is preventable in the majority of cases,” said Residential life officer Anca Sticlaru and that “anyone can play a part in preventing suicide”.
Sticlaru explained that most times students don’t reach out to LSE due to a fear of not being taken seriously, worry that their families will find out or that it may lead to negative academic and career-related consequences. Others may not due to lack of information, such as where to go and who to reach out to. According to the Samaritans, four out of five university-aged people with suicidal thoughts don’t reach out to their GP.
Abby Louise, an LSE student and social-worker who attended the training session as the community and welfare officer for her halls of residence, found the session extremely useful. “I learnt things I didn’t know before and I feel more able to have conversations with people about suicide,” she told the Beaver.
Reflecting on the issue at LSE, she said, “there’s a lot of pressure to perform in this elite culture”. To combat this, she noted LSE should consider the problem of poor mental health systematically, tackling it at the institutional level and recognising that there is no one solution.
Mental health remains a highly delicate and complex issue, but some facts can’t be ignored. “We are not built as humans to be under constant stress,” said Sticlaru.