Student Support and Wellbeing protocol for supporting students who may be feeling suicidal

This protocol outlines the actions to be taken by the Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) services to support students who may be feeling suicidal.

Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) services

The UCL Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) department includes several distinct support services, administered through the following teams: Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing team; Student Psychological and Counselling Services (SPCS); Wardens and Student Resident Advisers in UCL-managed accommodation.

The SSW services are free and available to all UCL students. Students can self-refer to any of the SSW services. SSW services ordinarily rely on students proactively seeking and choosing to engage with support. 

Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisers  

The Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) team of Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisers have a wealth of experience and skills including Mental Health First Aid and suicide prevention training. 

The team of Advisers follow a dedicated Assessment and Referral pathway to openly discuss with the student their thoughts of suicide and help identify the most appropriate route for further support. The Advisers can only work with the information provided by the student at the time of the appointment. Depending on the level of concern, the Advisers may draw on any of the following options:

  • Agree a safety plan with the student to draw on personal and professional support networks and ensure the student understands how to access emergency support;
  • Encourage the student to discuss how they are feeling with a close family member and help them prepare for the conversation;
  • Signpost to GP services, talking therapies and/or support from an appropriate charitable organisation; 
  • Signpost to another UCL service (for example, Student Funding, SPCS, the UCL Student Mediator);
  • Make a direct referral to another service (for example, the student’s GP and/or medical support team or a crisis team); 
  • Establish connection with medical teams who are already supporting the student and liaise with them on an ongoing basis; 
  • Liaise with the student’s hall of residence and wardenial team to share the support plan in place for the student;
  • Liaise with the student’s next of kin to ensure personal support networks are involved and helping to keep the student safe; 
  • Assist the student to access emergency support from an A&E department or by phoning 999.

The above is not an exhaustive list, depending on the circumstances, the Adviser may identify other or additional support options. The Adviser sends an email to the student confirming what has been agreed at the appointment and any further actions that need to be taken. 

Advisers escalate any cases where students have shared thought and/or plans of suicide with their Manager. Contacting next of kin is agreed with an SSW Manager, who also makes the call. Contacting next of kin, and any other follow up actions, normally requires student consent.

However to help keep a student safe, concerns can be escalated to their GP and/or medical team and next of kin (or another appropriate personal contact) without consent, too. This is in line with UCL’s Student Privacy Notice and UCL’s guidance on confidentiality, which enable UCL support services to break confidentiality in order to protect the student’s vital interests.

Student Psychological and Counselling Services (SPCS)

SSW's Student Psychological and Counselling Services (SPCS) will take the following actions to support students who may be feeling suicidal:

  • Undertake a risk assessment to ascertain whether the student is at imminent risk of taking their own life and discuss with them who should be informed and what actions need to be taken;
  • If they are at imminent risk, take them to A&E or arrange for them to be taken to A&E so that they can be assessed by the psychiatric liaison team to see if they need to be hospitalised and/or linked into their local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT);
  • Contact their GP to inform them of the student’s suicidal risk;
  • If they are not at imminent risk, do a safety plan with them in order to help them determine what they can do to keep themselves safe, identify the people they can call on for support and where to go if they fear they are at risk of harming themselves;
  • Give them our ‘Helping you to stay safe’ card either in print or electronically;
  • Put them on the SPCS 'At Risk Register' and inform the Director of SSW and the Head or Deputy Head of SPCS that this has been done;
  • Inform colleagues in the Disability, Mental Health and Welbeing Support team of the student’s suicidal risk in order to ensure continuity of care;
  • Monitor their suicidal risk if seen at SPCS; 
  • Inform their GP when discharged from SPCS; 
  • SPCS will maintain student’s confidentiality as long as they are engaging with appropriate support - if they are at imminent risk of suicide and are not engaging with support, confidentiality will no longer be maintained. 

Wardens and Student Residence Advisers (SRAs) 

Students in UCL-managed accommodation have access to support from a team of Wardens (UCL staff members) and SRAs (UCL graduate students). The team lives amongst students in halls and can sometimes be the first people a student shares suicidal feelings with. 

The Wardens and SRAs openly listen to the student and encourage them to seek professional support as soon as possible. They can also help the student reflect on their personal support networks and identify trusted relations who may be able to support them through the difficulties they may be experiencing.

If they are concerned that a student may be in immediate danger of harming themselves or attempting to take their own life, they assist the student with receiving emergency support. 

If a student has shared suicidal thoughts, Wardens and SRAs complete the UCL Student of Concern Form, providing as much information as possible. 

Completing the form together with the student or obtaining their consent in advance of submitting the form is recommended. However, if a student has expressed suicidal thoughts or plans (i.e. their vital interests might be at risk), the form can be submitted without consent. The same applies if a student shares past experiences of attempting to take their own life. 

Concerns about a student’s life take precedent over data protection considerations and need to be acted on as soon as possible. This is in line with UCL’s Student Privacy Notice and UCL’s guidance on confidentiality

The UCL Student of Concern Form is monitored during office hours only. 

Find out more about the Student of Concern process and complete the form