Content warning: mentions of suicide.
In what is being described as a mental health crisis at U of T, students have protested the administration’s handling of suicides on campus and its perceived lack of support and mental health services. The Varsity looked into how U of T tracks information about student deaths on campus and the university’s policy on acknowledging suicides.
Campus Police at UTSG reported three attempted suicides or deaths in 2017 and one in 2016, only accounting for on-campus incidents. The 2018 report has not yet been released.
For U of T, the decision to notify staff and students is determined by the Office of the Vice-Provost Students and the affected faculty, according to Elizabeth Church, U of T spokesperson.
In an email to The Varsity, Church wrote that the university does not confirm the identity of deceased students without the permission of the student’s family. She also confirmed that U of T “may acknowledge” the death and identity of a student if released by Toronto Police or other official channels.
The 2017 Student Health and Well-Being at the University of Toronto report, which surveyed 4,752 students, revealed that at least 12 per cent of respondents, or 570 students, have either contemplated or attempted suicide in the past 12 months.
Besides national surveys and Campus Police reports, the university does not publish any other information on suicides on campus.
A Toronto Star report from 2017 found that most universities release statements on student deaths, but rarely release the student’s name and almost never acknowledge the cause of death. The Public Health Agency of Canada told the Star that statistics collected by institutions on suicide are necessary to fully inform prevention efforts and policies.
If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
- Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
- Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
- Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
- U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.
Warning signs of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.