examstressTeachers and lecturers at universities and colleges throughout the UK are being prioritised in a new bid to help reduce the number of suicides and mental breakdown among debt-stressed students.

The nationwide initiative by the Campaign for Awareness of Mental Illness Among Debtors (CAMIAD) coincides with the seasonal stresses caused by post-Christmas cash shortages and the approach of university examinations.

CAMIAD is urging academic staff to acquire the skills that will enable them to recognise if students have underlying mental health issues or, at worst, suicidal tendencies.

“Where problems of this kind are detected, lecturers and teachers should be taught how to bring matters out in to the open with the student concerned and how to signpost them on for help and treatment,” said campaign founder, Ian Williamson.

“Our workshop training sessions are designed for anyone who has face-to-face contact with individuals faced with overwhelming debt. This is especially relevant for students faced with the repayment of massive student loans so we believe it is of paramount importance that their lecturers and teachers are targeted by our campaign.”

Williamson was prompted to create the campaign after an inquest last year heard that former university student Toby Thorn, 23, from Penzance, Cornwall, committed suicide because of the pressures of a £3,000 bank overdraft and a £5,000 student loan.

The initiative has been welcomed by student-led charity Mental Wealth UK and development officer Rosie Tressler said: "There's a great deal of pressure on students at this time of the year with both financial worries after Christmas and the onset on the exam season and this initiative by CAMIAD is a valuable and timely addition to the services that already exist to help students.”

The intensive one-day workshops, for small discussion-style groups up to 15 people, have been designed with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) and a nationwide programme of training workshops is now being drawn up by CAMIAD for 2013.