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Students back mental health alerts following Bristol suicides

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Ben Murray, a 19-year-old English student at the University of Bristol, died in May

Thousands of students have joined a scheme that allows university staff to tell parents or guardians if they are struggling with mental health problems.

The University of Bristol introduced the opt-in scheme as 11 students have taken their own lives there since 2016.

The university has also launched a “science of happiness” course in a bid to improve well-being.

It is hoped the optional 10-week course will give students a “greater understanding of what happiness is”.

Ben Murray, a first year English student, was one of those who died earlier this year.

The 19-year-old had been falling behind in his studies and missing lectures.

His father James Murray has campaigned for better data sharing by universities to prevent further student deaths.

He welcomed the opt-in scheme when it was offered to students for the first time in September, and wants all universities to do the same.

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The opt-in scheme enables university staff to contact “nominated next of kin” over wellbeing concerns

The most up-to-date statistics from Universities UK show 146 students killed themselves in 2016.

Recently 94% of universities have experienced a sharp increase in the number of people trying to access support services.

Bristol has three student centres open 24 hours a day and more than 50 staff looking out for those who are struggling.

The university said its “pioneering” course will explore what happiness is, how to achieve it and teach tangible practices for students to apply in their everyday lives.

Professor Judith Squires, the university’s pro vice-chancellor, said the course was for all students and not just those “having challenges with their well-being”.

“Ultimately, the aim of this course is to give students a greater understanding of what happiness is and how the human mind often sabotages happiness,” she said.

“We hope it will be hugely beneficial to our students, not just during their time at university but throughout their lives.”

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