This topic briefing discusses issues relating to suicide and mental health. It does not constitute regulatory guidance. It is intended to help providers develop suicide prevention strategies at their university or college. If you are affected by any of the issues raised, there are services that can help:
- The Samaritans are open every day of the year, you can phone them for free on 116 123 or email [email protected] (response time: 24 hours)
- SHOUT 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope
- Mind, the mental health charity, offers support by phone at 0300 123 3393 or online
- The NHS mental health information and support.
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.
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:
- Proactive preparation and planning.
- Responding to student suicide.
- Reviewing, evaluating and learning.
It also provides a series of tools to accompany the guide including a ‘postvention checklist’ and ‘forming a postvention team’.