The new recommendations include the option to engage trusted contacts such as parents or others even without the student’s consent.
This should be used in situations where there are serious concerns about the person’s safety or mental health, according to UK universities (United kingdom).
Its guidelines – issued in partnership with the Charity for Suicide Prevention in El Bardy – are the first time a consistent practice has been proposed for the sector.
UK University, which represents 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the recommendations put students at the center of decisions about their safety and care.
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But she said that while it is always best to get consent from a student, if there are serious concerns about their safety or mental health, universities can decide to engage trusted contacts without their consent.
She advised that such decisions be made by appropriately qualified personnel, supported by senior leadership, and taken in the best interests of the student.
The guidelines include requiring students to provide a trusted contact—not necessarily a parent—when they enroll at the university, and to “start a conversation about when and how these contacts can be engaged.”
There were 300 student suicides in higher education in the four academic years from 2016-2017, according to the most recent data published earlier this year.
The Office for National Statistics said there were 64 in the last school year studied – 2019-2020 – the lowest number from the past four years.
In its new guidelines, the UK University said there should also be a “check-in” at the start of each new academic year so that this could be updated if necessary.
Universities are also urged to review suicide prevention plans and policies to keep students safe, and to work closely with NHS services.
The sister of a student who committed suicide, not attending university, hailed the new recommendations as a “wonderful discipline.”
Isabella D. George lost her brother Harrison about two years ago.
Asked if the system likely helped him, she told the BBC breakfast: “I definitely think it would have helped Harrison, and I think it’s a great system because the fact that a student is able to control who they want to be, whether it’s a family member[or a friend or whatever, that they trust]is fantastic”[member[orfriendorwhoeversomebodythattheytrustIthinkisjustfantastic][أوصديقًاأوأيًاكان،التييثقونبهاأعتقدأنهارائعة”[member[orfriendorwhoeversomebodythattheytrustIthinkisjustfantastic”
She said when someone is at a “crisis point” they can’t think new, so having a trusted contact in place is really a “safety net.”
Her brother was studying for the PGCE exam when he died, and he was at a local college.
She said the appointment did not contact the university, the student, or the family to let them know that he did not attend that day.
“I think if the university had been able to contact us and had that information for our contact details, they would have been able to alert us sooner too,” she added.
She said students can be “lost in the system” and that the new approach can help young people feel reassured that they are “cared for”.
Professor Steve West, President of UUK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol, said the sector must do “everything possible to reduce the risk of suicide and serious self-harm”.
He said: “Universities are committed to putting students who may face difficulties at the center of decisions about their care – including who they want to participate in.
But this obligation must be balanced with the duty to protect the student when there are serious concerns about his or her safety and well-being.
“Universities can help save lives when they adopt a proactive response to suicide prevention, and an important part of this proactive response is making proportionate, risk-based decisions about engaging trusted contacts.”
Jed Flynn, CEO of Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide, said, “Students have a right to believe that their best interests are always at heart.
These guidelines help determine when to put those best interests at the fore in information-sharing decisions when emotional crises loom large.
“Suicide at universities is relatively rare but can devastate society when it occurs. Together, with the help of this guidance, we can all play our part to ensure it remains rare.”
Additional coverage by the Press Association