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Mental health and suicide awareness (supporting students)

Staff training

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We believe that we can all make a difference to the wellbeing of our students and colleagues and work towards keeping those in our community safe.

We have developed this training programme as part of a community approach to mental health and suicide safety. Working together as colleagues is an essential part of supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties and distress, as no one person is solely responsible for another's emotional wellbeing.

The aim of the training programme is to increase awareness of mental health difficulties and those at risk and ensure that appropriate support is swiftly put in place.

There are four levels to the training:

  • Level 1 training is available now for all colleagues to complete.
  • Level 2 is available for colleagues who have a student facing role.
  • Level 3 will be a 2-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England course for those colleagues with line management approval to become Mental Health First Aiders® student support. Further information will be provided when the course is available.
  • Level 4 will be suicide awareness and risk screening for colleagues that have roles that require training to this depth (for example colleagues working in Wellbeing Services)

It’s really important to look after your own mental health – both as you undertake the training and in the future, so please also be aware of the support for you and wellbeing support for colleagues pages.

If at any point you are concerned about a student's mental health or their risk of suicide, please read our guide to Signposting and referral routes for students. There is also further information and advice for staff on the Student Wellbeing webpages.

If you are concerned about a colleague's risk of suicide, please read more about suicide support for colleagues.


This training offers a community approach to mental health and suicide safety - anyone can encounter someone experiencing mental health difficulties or who is at risk of suicide. We can all make a difference by building on our existing knowledge of how best to support others.

Level 1 is relevant to all staff, raising your awareness of poor mental health and warning signs of acute distress, as well as how to talk to someone at risk and where to signpost them for further support.

Levels 2, 3 and 4 are primarily for colleagues who have a role facing students. The information covered in the different levels of the training programme will help build on, or confirm, your existing knowledge so you feel more confident in how to support these students within your role and where and when to signpost students to other services.

Offering all colleagues the same training in mental health and suicide safety aligns with our community approach to mental health and will help to ensure consistency in the way we make our community safer from suicide. This four-stage training programme is designed to help you feel more confident in your interactions with students who show signs of distress so that you can ensure they receive support and signposting in the best interests of their health and wellbeing.

Although the level 1 modules focus predominantly on student mental health and wellbeing, the content is also relevant to conversations you may have with colleagues. The community approach should empower you to spot warning signs and to support colleagues as well. Module 3 of the Level 1 training, for instance, is relevant to all adults. The Colleague Wellbeing web pages also contain resources and guidance on suicide awareness, support options and other suicide prevention training available. 

Our community approach to mental health and suicide safety currently prioritises the way in which colleagues can make a difference to students at risk. However, the skills developed by this training programme are equally applicable to other audiences, including our student community. However, care needs to be taken to ensure students feel supported should they engage in the training and then apply newly acquired skills in supporting a student 'peer.' If students have any concerns for their peers (or themselves), they should immediately contact Wellbeing Services for help and support.

It is understandable that a student may seek confidentiality relating to their personal health. However, you should never promise absolute confidentiality as this could leave you in a difficult position when trying to support the student effectively.

We recommend you have an honest conversation, explain that you will maintain confidentiality where possible, however you cannot maintain complete confidentiality if there was ever significant concern for their safety or the safety of others. You can explain that any information the person gives will be handled sensitively, only information that is relevant to the person’s safety will be shared, and any disclosures will be made to as few people as possible. 

Your role as a staff member is to signpost students to professional support. The Student Wellbeing Team is trained to take forward preliminary screening for risk and to ensure that relevant NHS agencies are then engaged in appropriate medical care.

The Welfare team aim to respond to staff referrals within 2-3 hours (during day-time hours.) The team provide an initial response to student concerns and will assess referral information (in conversation with the referring staff member) to determine the next steps required. However, Wellbeing Services is not an emergency service. Where life is at immediate risk, concerned colleagues should contact the Emergency Services via 999.

This training has been developed to help increase awareness, skills and confidence in responding to people at risk of suicide.

We hope the training will increase opportunities for those at risk to be identified and to receive appropriate support, thus reducing the risk of suicide. Working together as colleagues is an essential part of supporting people experiencing mental health difficulties and distress. However, whilst we can all make a difference, no university member of staff is solely responsible for a colleague’s or student’s emotional wellbeing, or for their thoughts, actions or choices.

If you have current concerns for a student please read our guide to Signposting and referral routes for students.

It’s always important to look after your own wellbeing and mental health, particularly if you have been helping a distressed student. Read more about the support available to you if you have concerns or anxiety following contact with a suicidal student.

There is also additional support for your general wellbeing on our Colleague Wellbeing webpages.

While the training is available to all colleagues, the decision with regards to the level at which training is required is dependent on your role. Speak to your line manager if you believe you require the training at a different level.