Under pressure: representations of student suicide in British documentary television

Calver, Kay and Michael-Fox, Bethan (2021). Under pressure: representations of student suicide in British documentary television. Mortality (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13576275.2021.1987658

Abstract

This article examines what the representation of university student suicide in three British television documentaries reveals about media constructions of suicide and the pressures young people experience at university. Within these documentaries, student suicide is positioned as a risk endemic in a high pressure, high-cost performance culture. Young students are depicted as stressed and ‘on the edge’, either as a consequence of the academic pressure of university or the coalescence of academic, financial and social pressures. Debates about the responsibility of individuals and the accountability of institutions come to the fore as depictions of students as fully fledged and responsible adults jostle with the notion of students as ‘adults in transition’, at risk and in need of institutions to actively monitor and intervene in their lives. The documentaries offer insight into shifting media constructions of the student from ‘fun loving’ and ‘carefree’ to ‘under pressure’ and ‘at risk’. Within them, student suicide is positioned not only as a profound personal loss, but as an economic loss to a society neglecting its young people.

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