Bournemouth’s three universities, Bournemouth University (BU), Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), and AECC University College, have put their support behind the launch of a joint Universities Suicide Prevention Strategy.
The three institutions, who all sit on the Pan-Dorset Multi Agency Suicide Prevention Strategy Steering Group, have signed up to a shared vision to ensure that “no one of any age living in Dorset will reach the point where they feel or believe that they have no other choice but to attempt suicide or to end their life by suicide”.
The Universities Strategy encompasses six workstreams in areas of Surveillance, Bereavement Support, Communications and Media, Skills and Training, Lived-Experience Champions and a Community and Partnership Group.
The Strategy, which focuses on local university communities, will also identify and annually re-define Target Groups, reflecting the vulnerabilities attached to staff and students in universities, with AECC, BU and AUB meeting quarterly to share intelligence around trends, experiences, and demographics captured by the Pan-Dorset Suicide Prevention Real Time Surveillance and High-Risk working groups.
Dr. Ann Luce, Research and Media Lead for the Pan-Dorset Suicide Prevention Strategy, spoke to a launch audience at BU’s Share Lecture Theatre, explaining how Higher Education Institutions could better understand suicide and its associated implications.
Ann said: “It is time to end the stigma around suicide, statistics show how prevalent it is in our society and I am pleased to be able to support this initiative, which we hope will get people talking, engaging and, ultimately, supporting one another in positive mental health, and lead to suicide prevention in Dorset and beyond.”
The universities will also look at how they can reduce access to information around means of suicide, and support media in delivering sensitive approaches to suicide, using research, data collection and monitoring.
Professor Paul Gough, Vice-Chancellor at AUB, said: “Suicide is a subject that many of us find incredibly difficult to talk about, but it is certainly something we should talk about more. We want our universities to be safe places; places where staff and students can thrive and succeed, and places where people feel they belong as part of a supportive and caring community.
“We recognise that there may be barriers, that accessing that support may be difficult, and that people may feel unable or unwilling to do so. This is the lived experience, and we are aware of it, but we are also aware that this is preventable, and that’s why our three universities have a shared vision, alongside all of our partners, in signing up to the Pan Dorset Prevention Strategy.”
Kerry-Ann Randle, Head of Student Support and Wellbeing at BU, said: “We have been so encouraged by our close working relationships across the three universities, and with our wider Dorset partners, to come together to make sure we’re doing all we can to provide wellbeing support at every stage and, ultimately, make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent suicide within university settings. Any university student who is struggling any way should feel free to come and talk to us without fear of judgement, knowing that they’ll find the help and support they need.”
Caroline Cooke, Head of Library and Learning Services at AECC University College, said: “No one should feel alone or without anyone to turn to for support when they need it most. We are making a commitment, in our new three university strategy, to do all we can to help create caring communities where we are all able to talk openly, and without judgement, about our wellbeing. Access to timely support is so important; the strategy will be supported by a continual cycle of review, to ensure it continues to meet the needs of our students and staff, making a positive difference on wellbeing in our community.”
The Suicide Prevention Strategy is led by Kerry-Ann Randle, Head of Wellbeing at BU, Heidi Cooper-Hind, Head of Academic and Student Services at AUB, and Caroline Cooke, Head of Library and Learning Services at AECC University College.
An Annual Review and Suicide Prevention Summit will also take place each year, with the group working collaboratively to ensure consistency, share best practice and identify learning opportunities.
The full strategy can be read on the BU website.