STUDENTS at Edinburgh College have called for the return of dedicated counselling services after a spate of suicides at one of its campuses.
The plea comes amid claims support staff are buckling under “huge pressure” after campus-based counselling teams were axed by college chiefs.
It also emerged that four students had taken their own lives between June last year and January – a figure described as “abnormally high”.
Among them was Nepalese national Sanjay Dhital, 24, whose body was retrieved from St Margaret’s Loch in January after he went missing on Boxing Day last year.
One student, who asked not to be named, said: “Student support staff are under huge pressure and it’s time the college considers investing properly in staff. I hope the college focuses more on mental health.”
Sources said all four cases involved students from Edinburgh College’s Granton Campus. They said the students came from the hair and beauty, sports and catering departments.
Student leaders praised the “super-human” efforts of support staff at campuses across the Capital but said recent cuts to services meant they were increasingly “over-stretched”. Students’ Association president John Martin said: “Edinburgh College has reduced the capacity for the pastoral care of students recently and we are acutely concerned that the well-being of students will suffer despite the super-human efforts of the brilliant and dedicated but overstretched support staff.
“The impact on having counsellors on campus cannot be under-estimated and as many students and staff as possible should be trained to identify signs of mental ill-health and signpost students to appropriate help.
“This is why we are running mental health first aid training over the Easter break and calling for the college to invest in similar training for staff as well as providing counselling for students on all campuses.”
A college spokeswoman said: “Previously, we had a dedicated counselling service on campus. Because this model was not able to meet the needs of enough students, we changed and now use the expertise of local counselling services.
“All student services advisers are trained in basic counselling skills. The advisers refer students to appropriate local independent counselling services, according to each individual’s needs.”
Students can contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.