Suicide prevention in universities

One of the issues which higher education institutions are focusing on increasingly is the wellbeing of their students. The Office for Students (OfS) has published a topic briefing for universities and colleges to take steps to help prevent suicide among students and support the community.

To accompany the topic briefing the OfS also produced a blog on “Working together on suicide prevention in higher education” written by the OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation and the President of Universities UK.

The blog gives the background to the publication of the briefing including the Universities Minister’s clear indication that it is expected that all higher education providers are to have suicide prevention measures in place and that the OfS and UUK call on universities and colleges to draw on the guidance to improve their approaches.

The OfS’s press release explains that the guidance includes ensuring suicide prevention work involves the whole university with senior leaders taking ownership of suicide prevention strategies.

It is clear that the OfS is seeking to ensure that student mental health is a strategic priority for universities. The OfS states it will work with universities with the aim of ensuring that all higher education providers have a clear and robust plan for preventing and responding to incidents of student suicide.

The topic briefing is split into sections outlining the issue and includes an advice section setting out six headings of advice - taking a whole provider approach, active and effective leadership, working in partnership with the community, following an evidence based approach, centring the needs of students and developing plans and support for people bereaved or affected by a suicide.

The briefing then has an examples section demonstrating how some institutions are approaching and developing suicide prevention strategies. These are helpful to see the challenges faced by different institutions across a range of their interactions with students ranging from accommodation, wellbeing services, security, tutors and lecturers, and the Students’ Union.  The examples also touch on institutions’ approaches to information sharing with healthcare professionals and emergency contacts.  Establishing a lawful condition for sharing personal data about an individual’s health or wellbeing will depend on the precise circumstances; some of the issues to consider are outlined in this blog from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The briefing ends with a detailed resources section which covers government strategies, specific guidance for universities and colleges and links to organisations that provide training and support for students.

If you have any questions relating to any of the issues raised please do not hesitate to contact Gary Attle or Richard Sykes.

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