Talking about suicide: A guide for college and university staff

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What to do if you are with a student who has confirmed they are at risk of suicide

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

Action plan 3 – crisis plan 

Action plan 3 is for when a student has confirmed they are at urgent risk of suicide. 

  • Enlist the help of someone else so the student isn’t left alone, and you aren’t left alone with the student. 
  • If the student is willing, arrange for them to go to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department. Telephone 999 and explain the situation. 
  • If the student is very upset or uncooperative and you are on campus, call reception and ask them to call the police. The police can arrange for an ambulance if necessary. If you are not on campus, call the police yourself. 
  • If you are on your own with the student stay with them until the ambulance arrives and you are able to hand over to the paramedics. It is not necessary for you to accompany the student in the ambulance to hospital.  
  • Alternatively, where possible contact the appropriate member of safeguarding staff in your university and ask for them to join you (there should be a duty person at all times). 
  • Once you have introduced the safeguarding colleague and the student is safe with them, excuse yourself.  
  • Make a written note of key points and action taken. 
  • Speak with your line manager about your concerns and your actions as soon as possible. 
  • Contact HR or the counselling service manager or equivalent to arrange a debriefing session and hand over written notes so that follow-up support can be initiated. If the incident occurs out of office hours follow up with them as a priority. 
Supporting students after the initial crisis

Once a student has been identified as being at risk of suicide it is good to have a follow-up plan to ensure the crisis is averted and the student has adequate support for their mental health. 


Supporting students after the initial crisis


What to do in the unfortunate event of a suicide

If a suicide or suspected suicide occurs within the university community, it can be an extremely distressing and confusing time for staff and students alike. It helps to have a plan that can be acted on straight away. 


What to do if a suicide takes place


Giving everyone the confidence to talk about suicide

To reduce the stigma of mental health issues colleges and universities should have a policy where talking about mental health is everyone’s responsibility and helping to protect a student who is suicidal is part of that.  


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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