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Cambridge’s ‘Suicide Sunday’ campaign and the deeper psychology of suicide

Jul 2nd, 2015 by

As students challenge a name they believe trivialises mental health issues, we look at the the work of scientists trying to understand despair and resilience

Last Sunday marked the official end of exam term at Cambridge University, a day of garden parties and boat races. Over the years, this final Sunday of exam week has has gained the popular moniker “Suicide Sunday”, a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that students should celebrate making it through the stressful exam period without killing themselves.

The name is intended in jest, but the presence of mental health problems among the student population remains a dark undercurrent of university life. A survey undertaken by the National Union of Students found that 1 in 10 experience suicidal thoughts. There are no official figures available for suicide rates at Oxbridge. However, in their guidance to staff, the Cambridge University Counselling Service states that approximately 40-50 students a year accessing the service will have had or discussed serious suicidal thoughts. However, they are also at pains to point out that in fact the confirmed suicide rate is in fact lower than in the general population of the same age.

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