Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland suicide study shows anxiety of student life

The conference on Thursday has been organised by Queen's University, Belfast
Image caption The conference on Thursday has been organised by Queen's University, Belfast

A new study of suicides among young people in Northern Ireland highlights how student life can be fraught with loneliness and anxiety.

It is the first time such research has been carried out among local people aged under 25.

Mental health specialists are due to discuss the findings at a conference on Thursday organised by Queen's University, Belfast .

The study by Ulster University looks at the suicides of 355 men and women.

It was carried out by its Psychology Research Institute based on coroners data.

The keynote speaker is Professor Siobhan O'Neill from Ulster University.

"Young people who die by suicide are somewhat different from the older age groups; over half will have had a prior attempt; 64% of the males will have used alcohol at the time of death," she said.

A disturbing but important read, the study raises the importance of student well being and highlights the potential effects of self-harm, long term depression and addiction.

"More than half of those involved in the study were not known to have mental health problems," Professor O'Neill added.

"That's worrying as we need to encourage more young people to talk about their feelings, their health and when necessary to ask for help."

It also reveals that one in five will have self harmed.

'Loneliness'

Professor O'Neill, specialises in mental health and said that as well as "encouraging students to open up and to talk about their experiences, the services need to be in place to support them as well".

Other findings highlight that life on the student campus can cause anxiety and addiction.

"The competitive academic environment, along with additional life challenges mean that, for many, student life can be fraught with loneliness and anxiety," Professor O'Neill said.

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Image caption Professor O'Neill said young people needed to be encouraged to talk about their feelings

Carecall has been offering mental health and wellbeing support in workplaces and in education for almost 20 years.

It is managed by the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH).

Its chief executive is Professor Peter McBride.

"Mental health is rising on the health agenda, but more needs to be done to tackle the stigma which still hangs over us and makes it hard to talk about," he said. The key is to ask for help."

The conference at the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast will include Northern Ireland universities, further education colleges and Carecall which provides student counselling services.

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