Talking about suicide: A guide for college and university staff

White curve
Being confident to talk about suicide

Trigger warning: these pages include content discussing suicidal feelings and self-harm 

Shared responsibility 

Mental health is everyone’s responsibility. The university should have policies to support all staff who are in contact with students to feel confident in talking about mental health and helping protect students who may be suicidal. Read more about CREATE a university mental health strategy 

Local support services 

The university should also compile a list of local services and phone numbers to support students and staff, which is easy to access and promoted widely. 

Collaborating across the university 

These are some of the vital steps to ensuring a shared approach to suicide awareness and helping all staff to become more confident in talking about it and taking action where it’s needed. 

  • Promote a culture of openness and care. 
  • Staff training to grow and develop confidence in these conversations. 
  • Peer training and support so students can support each other. 
  • Raising the profile of suicide awareness and prevention across the university. 
  • Effective, accessible system in place to record incidents of risk. 
  • Support for staff who are affected by this work – self-care/debrief. 

Including everyone 

Although this information is aimed at supporting students, the skills and benefits are applicable to staff, and families of staff. It is vitally important to promote openness in talking about suicide, and knowing what to do for students, friends, family and colleagues. It can be the difference between a life or death.  

Cultural awareness 

Research has shown that people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds may find it hard to access support for suicidal feelings. It is important to be aware of this, and not to avoid these conversations where there are concerns, but to inform how concerns may be addressed with sensitivity while remaining culturally respectful. This could be included as part of cultural diversity and inclusion training. 

Related articles

How is suicide different from self-injury or self-harm?

Suicidal feelings – when should you be worried about a student?

What makes suicide more, or less, likely?

What to do if you are worried about a student

When a student confirms they are at risk of suicide

Supporting students after the initial crisis

What to do if a suicide takes place

Being confident to talk about suicide

Resources and sources of support

Support, information and signposting anywhere in the UK via webchat or phone.
Call: 0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight, 365 days a year)

Papyrus is the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide.
For confidential suicide prevention advice contact HOPELINEUK, 9am-midnight, every day.
Call: 0800 068 4141
Text: 07860 039967


Samaritans offers listening and support to people and communities in times of need.
Available to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a yearCall: 116 123 (free line)


24/7 text service, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere
Text: SHOUT to 85258

This content has been adapted from Talking about suicide: A guide for college staff" originally developed as a partnership between the Association of Colleges and the Charlie Waller Trust and has been endorsed by Universities UK and Papyrus. It was written by members of the Charlie Waller team who are experts in the field – Dr Andrew Reeves, Kirsten Amis, Kath Caffrey – and reviewed by Prof. Keith Hawton at the Centre for Suicide Research.




Talking about suicide - A guide for college staff

A guide for college staff developed in partnership with the Association of Colleges

View resource

Talking about suicide - A guide for university staff

A guide for university staff endorsed by Universities UK, Papyrus and the Centre for Suicide Research

View resource

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