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Establishing whether a student has made previous suicide attempts or experienced previous episodes of mental distress can help you to decide on the best course of action if you think they might need a swift intervention.

The course of action can be determined by whether:

Top: Urgent stamp. Bottom: Referrals sign

Urgent stamp

Someone is in immediate danger

In situations where someone is in immediate danger, most universities instruct staff to alert the institution’s security service. Some also have mental health advisers who can be called upon in an emergency and GP surgeries on campus often have provision to see students in crisis quickly. Staff need to be aware of their institution’s policy on responding to emergencies.

Referrals sign

There is no immediate threat to life, but someone is displaying the signs of disturbance and disorientation

Where there is no immediate threat to life, but someone is displaying the signs of disturbance and disorientation, advice should be sought about appropriate referral points within the university and/or the NHS. This can be done without breaching the student’s confidentiality if they are reluctant to give you permission by contacting the university’s counselling service, mental health adviser or health centre and having an exploratory conversation without divulging the student’s name.