Agenda item

Suicide Prevention and Response

The Commission to note the presentations.


Officers presentating Report: Leonie Roberts, Consultant in Public Health and

Mark Ames, Director of Student Services, University of Bristol


Leonie Roberts, Consultant in Public Health and Mark Ames, Director of Student Services, University of Bristol


The Chair stated how important she felt it was to bring this issue to commission. This was within the context of a ‘spike’ in student suicides and a new Minister for suicide prevention.  The Chair added that the item was timely as Members were keen to understand how Bristol was addressing this.


Leonie Roberts gave a presentation (the slides are included with the published meeting papers).

Some of the key points were as follows:

  • The Bristol suicide rate is higher than the national average.  69% of cases are male.
  • A national report showed the risk to be higher in non-students. But there are particular concerns in Bristol. 
  • It is difficult to identify those at risk.  It was said that it is important to reduce ‘male stigma’ around mental health issues.  Male dominated sports such as football and rugby are being targeted. 
  • It was said to be important to reduce those at risk’s ‘access to means’. E.g. improving barriers bridges.
  • A Suicide Prevention Action Group now exists.  
  • Multi-agency response: to target at-risk groups e.g. middle aged men.
  • Media coverage on this subject falls below the expected standards at times.


  • A Member enquired about slide 11 of the presentation and how many individual people the groups and partnerships consisted of.  The response was that it was difficult to put a specific figure on it and that some people sat on multiple groups which helped the flow of information and communication.  The Chair said she saw this as a sign that people were not working in silos.  It was confirmed it’s ‘joined –up’ working. 


Mark Ames (Director of Student Services – on how we support student mental health, well-being and student inclusion).  The slides are also included in the published meeting papers.


  • Traditionally it was a reactive approach to student well-being.  Now a new model for supporting students is to have a whole institution approach. Focus on health and wellbeing and physical activity. But also recognising where extra help for students with disabilities required. 
  • Issues can be complex so they are introducing a new team of ‘student well-being advisors’.  These will compliment academic staff to support student well-being.  Now a greater focus for tutors on personal development planning.
  • Also introducing Bristol Futures Programme – this has a focus on sustainability.  It includes personal sustainability and managing one’s own wellbeing.  They have also now introduced a Science of Happiness Unit – to be accredited next semester. This has already attracted 450 students.
  • Now professionalising the approach to supporting students. Also, recruiting residential ‘life advisors’ which is 24/7 round the clock support. 


The new strategy includes: 

  • Suicide prevention and response plan being developed. 
  • A new online reporting tool to report unacceptable behaviour (anonymously if preferred).

Headlines of suicide prevention and response plan:

  • Prevention / Intervention / Post-intervention


Following on from this, Members asked a number of questions: 

  • What training and supervision do wellbeing advisors have?  Response: they come from wide-ranging professional backgrounds including probation, social work, charity sector. They have a diverse profile, so a wide range of students can identify with them.  They are not clinical practitioners but providing effective support for wellbeing and an ongoing training programme for substance misuse, mental health; supervision.


  • Are there statistics on suicide rates for overseas students and is there specific support for them?


o   Audits show high levels of risk among mature students; not specifically   international students. 

o   Chinese students can sometimes have more difficultly disclosing mental health issues.  The head of inclusion is focusing on the needs of international students. 

o   All students across profiles are in proportion in accessing support.  But working to make services more inclusive.


  • What support is in place for BME students?  

Response: Data shows BME students have the same academic results coming in but attainment drifts away. This is not unique to Bristol.  Research shows (university) BME students do not always find the culture of university inclusive. The University of Bristol (UoB) is attempting to address this via an evidence led approach i.e. what BME students tell UoB about what prevents them enjoying university and being successful.


It was asked if they have examined the culture of UoB to try and make it less daunting or threatening for people who are not white and middle-class?


  • The Inclusion Service understands the social jump and difference for some students. 
  • They recognise some students don’t come as they don’t see themselves in the UoB environment. So there is additional mentoring support. (Bristol scholars programme). 


It was asked what is success going to look like and how is it measured? 


  • Broad measures around well-being.
  • Utilise the Graduate Outcome Survey.
  • Softer measures: student’s feelings about how they can access services. 
  • Performance Indicators on student services as well as the softer / qualitative measures.


A Member commented on the issue of inclusion and diversity in that in some communities mental health issues are not recognised at all and as far as some are concerned ‘they do not exist’. 

Response: this was acknowledged and it was explained that it is even more difficult to address.


The Chair thanked the presenters and asked if they would come back the following year to update the commission, to which they agreed.



Supporting documents: