Topic briefing

Suicide prevention

Last updated: 22 November 2022


These resources cover government strategies, guidance for universities and colleges, and organisations that provide training and support for students.

National strategies and plans

Public Health England resources and guidance

Suicide prevention: developing a local action plan aims to support local authority public health teams to work with sustainability and transformation partnerships to implement local suicide prevention plans and embed work within local sustainability and transformation plans.

A Suicide Prevention Profile has been produced to help develop understanding at a local level and support an intelligence driven approach to suicide prevention. It collates and presents a range of publicly available data on suicide, associated prevalence, risk factors, and contact with services among groups at increased risk.

Public Health England has published a resource of emerging practice examples on mental health promotion and prevention training programmes and resources and guidance for local authorities, public healthcare professionals and others to prevent suicides in their areas.

Suicide prevention: identifying and responding to suicide clusters - This toolkit, based on research into suicide clusters, is part of PHE's support for the government’s suicide prevention strategy.

Suicide-safer universities guidance

With funding from the OfS, Universities UK and Papyrus (the UK's national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide) published the Suicide-safer universities guidance in 2018 to help university leaders prevent student suicides. There is separate guidance aimed at university leaders and section practitioners. This includes:

  • advice on developing a strategy focused specifically on suicide prevention
  • steps to prevent student suicide
  • intervening when students get into difficulties
  • best practice for responding to student suicides (postvention)
  • case studies on approaches to suicide prevention through partnership working
  • checklist highlighting steps university leaders can take to make their communities safe.

Support for placement students

This checklist from Universities UK has been created to enable providers to better support students’ mental health with placement opportunities. This builds on the Suicide-safer universities guidance with a specific focus of the placement journey. It includes:

  • how to work with placement providers to ensure student safety
  • preparing students for placements and transitioning back into academic study
  • case studies on universities currently supporting student mental health with placements.

Information sharing

The information sharing guidance from Universities UK is designed to help providers understand when to involve families, carers and trusted others. Students' networks can play an essential role in supporting students who may be at risk of mental ill health. The guidance includes:

  • advice on how and when to approach trusted contacts
  • how to have conversations with students about information sharing
  • advice on sharing information in emergencies
  • case studies on student contact statements and critical incidents liaison processes.

How to respond to a student suicide

The Suicide-safer universities guidance on how to respond to a student suicide is designed to help universities develop compassionate and proactive responses to a suspected suicide. By providing timely support, universities can help create safer environments for their communities through limiting potential risks and following protocol to support recovery. This resource, developed by the sector, offers practical advice and promotes a three stage framework:

  1. Proactive preparation and planning.
  2. Responding to student suicide.
  3. Reviewing, evaluating and learning.

It also provides a series of tools to accompany the guide including a ‘postvention checklist’ and ‘forming a postvention team’.

Further guidance and training

Organisations and advice for students

Urgent support

  • Mind, the mental health charity offers support by phone or online.
  • NHS guidance for people with suicidal thoughts and where to get urgent help for mental health. Includes information on the immediate help and support available to individuals.
  • Nightline
    A listening, emotional support and information service, run by students for students. Nightlines are open at night, run by trained, caring, fellow student volunteers. Nightline can be contacted by phone, face to face, by email or by online chat.
  • Samaritans
    A charity dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide. They offer listening and support to people and communities in times of need and have guidance for people with suicidal thoughts.
  • Shout 85258
    Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope.
  • Student Space
    A website designed to make locating support easier for students. It hosts a broad range of information and guidance, access to dedicated support and a tool to help students find support at their university. All services are free and confidential.
  • Students against depression
    This website offers advice and information to those affected by low mood and who may be experiencing suicidal thinking. It is a website by students for students, and includes signposting, self-help resources and guidance.

Further training and support for students

  • Grassroots 'Stay Alive' suicide prevention mobile phone app
    The Stay Alive app is a pocket suicide prevention resource. It can be used if someone is having thoughts of suicide or if there is concern about someone else who may be considering suicide. It includes resources, a safety plan and a life box where photos can be stored.
  • Staying Safe
    This website provides ‘Safety Plan guidance tools’, jointly funded by NHS England, with easy to print and online templates and guidance video tutorials purposefully designed to help people through the process of writing their own Safety Plan – to build hope, identify actions and strategies to resist suicidal thoughts and develop positive ways to cope with stress and emotional distress.
  • Student Minds ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshop
    Based on the Look After Your Mate guide for students, this workshop empowers students to support friends experiencing mental health difficulties, while looking after their own wellbeing.

Academic papers

The following are a selection of academic papers that relate to suicide in higher education or suicide in young people:

Published 10 September 2021
Last updated 19 October 2023
19 October 2023
Link to latest strategy for England.
10 July 2023
Resources and organisations updated
13 December 2022
New resource added: Suicide-safer universities guidance on how to respond to a student suicide
10 October 2022
Additional UUK resources added: support for placement students and information sharing guidance
03 March 2022
Two new resources added: ICO data sharing and R;pple
19 November 2021
Additional resource added

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