Louis Ashworth/VarsityThe University is holding a review into the five student deaths

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of suicide

The Student Union (SU) has accused the University of a “series of failures” following the deaths of five students.

In a statement released today (11/7), the SU claims that the input of specific colleges has diluted the University’s Suicide Prevention Plan, made last year, into “a shamefully unambitious ‘Suicide-Safer strategy’”.

The SU says that although it is “wrong to speculate on the circumstances” surrounding the students’ deaths, the “mental health crisis at Cambridge” must be addressed, calling the recent number of deaths “especially troubling”.

The University is holding a review into the five student deaths that occurred between March and June. One of them has been ruled as a suicide, while the four others remain suspected suicides.

The SU claims that “Senior leaders in some colleges, particularly Trinity, pushed back against the idea that the colleges have or should have a responsibility to try to prevent suicide”.

The statement went on to say: “the aim of preventing suicides [was] removed from the [initial] plan, along with a range of active measures the University and colleges would have implemented to prevent suicide.”

They continued that the new policy disregards guidance from mental health charities, including the Samaritans and the World Health Organisation, and argue it fails to protect students, but instead “protects the colleges from liability”.

Professor Graham Virgo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), said in a statement that “we are shocked and saddened by the tragic deaths of five students at the University of Cambridge”.

He outlined the steps the University would be taking, saying that alongside the affected Colleges they have set up a rapid “Incident Response Group”. The group has already reviewed the first four deaths in line with national guidance, and the fifth student’s death is being reviewed using the same process. The University has also provided bereavement support to affected students.

Varsity has learnt that one of the affected students voiced concerns to their college over racial abuse from fellow students, days before their death, saying that the college in question declined to open an “official investigation” into their complaint.

Virgo told Varsity “Nothing is more important to the University and Colleges than the safety of our students. We are committed to delivering a comprehensive set of actions that are designed to help keep students safe”.

Trinity College has been approached for comment.

For anyone who has been affected by this news there is ample support available:

Members of the general public can call Samaritans for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org.

Cambridge Nightline (peer-led listening & information) can also be accessed at: https://cambridge.nightline.ac.uk/ or on 01223 744444 from 7pm-7am daily during term time.

Shout is a free and confidential text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope and people who are anxious, stressed, depressed, suicidal or overwhelmed and need immediate support. They are open 24 hours a day. You can text them at: 85258

The following support is provided by the University to current students:

Student Support at Cambridge: https://www.studentwellbeing.admin.cam.ac.uk/

Support in a crisis (daytime & out of hours): https://www.studentwellbeing.admin.cam.ac.uk/crisis-support-and-information

Support within Colleges: https://www.studentwellbeing.admin.cam.ac.uk/college-pastoral-support