In December, Universities UK in partnership with PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide and Samaritans, published the guidance Responding to a suicide: advice for universities. The guidance, which has been funded by the Office for Students, is written by the sector for the sector with advice from practitioners, experts and bereaved families.

It provides practical advice for student support teams, including a checklist to guide staff after a student death.

Recommendations to universities include:

  • Establishing a dedicated ‘postvention’ team to deal with any student death
  • Developing a death response plan for student services and other first responders.
  • Ensuring all staff receive training in what to do if they learn of a student death
  • Providing kind and timely support to family and friends and handling matters such as belongings, accommodation and student finance.
  • Recording and carrying out critical incident reviews of all student deaths. This should be led by a senior member of staff and should identify specific actions to prevent future suicides

The guidance is the first of its kind to set out the challenges that need careful and compassionate management following any student death but especially a suspected death by suicide.

The guidance emphasises the impact on families, friends and wider communities of staff and students and the importance of providing practical and emotional support, including psychological support.

“What higher education institutions do in the immediate aftermath of a death by suicide matters.  We must respond with compassion and respect and be sensitive to – and guided by – the wishes of the family of the person who has died.

“It is also critical that we learn from each and every case so that we can limit the risks of future tragedies. This guidance will help us respond with kindness, to learn from each death and to do everything we can to save lives.”

— Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol

“PAPYRUS is delighted to see the HE sector owning the agenda of suicide postvention in the launch of this important guidance. Working together with those with lived experience and organisations like PAPYRUS, Samaritans, and Universities UK, universities can be confident that this guidance will ensure best practice and, indeed, future suicide safety in the aftermath of a student death.”

— Ged Flynn, Chief executive of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide

Download the guide here:

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