As part of our commitment to raising awareness about suicide prevention, we encourage staff and students to take a free online suicide awareness training courses: find out more.
Advice for staff
Most university staff come into contact with students in distress or in need of support.
This page offers basic guidelines on working with students in this capacity, although if you can't find the advice you need please do contact us. You may also want to signpost students to some of our recommended self-guided resources.
If the student will accept help
- Discuss with the student where they would like to get support.
If you feel you could help the student you must ensure that
- You have the time.
- It does not conflict with your role.
- You are clear of your boundaries.
- You have access to support and advice.
- You are able to listen to the student’s concerns.
- You can offer practical advice.
- You can provide reassurance.
- Show your concern by following up your conversation at another time.
If you feel someone else should help the student
- What does the student need?
- Inform the student about the services available. Support them to access the services themselves. Check later with the student if this has been done.
- If you are unsure then seek further advice from a relevant colleague in your College or speak to Wellbeing Services or an appropriate service.
If the student will not accept help
- You can make it clear that you will help if the student changes his or her mind.
- Ensure the student understands the implications of not accessing help eg. they will not be able to access reasonable adjustments such as special exam arrangements.
- Explain issues of confidentiality especially in relation to passing on information in exceptional circumstances.
- Seek advice from the Senior Personal Tutor in your College, Wellbeing Services or Head of Student Support.
In all situations
- If you feel overwhelmed make sure that you debrief by talking to a colleague, Wellbeing Services or Occupational Health.
- Make sure you follow the University guidelines regarding confidentiality.
- Record the meeting by emailing the student a brief note of your conversation, the services you have discussed and any actions agreed.
Your encouragement to access support services can make a real difference if a student has never considered accessing support before, or feels that their concerns are not important enough. We often see students who feel that they need to be experiencing a crisis to justify accessing support. There is no concern too small in this case.
If the student can be encouraged to make contact with the service themselves, it may be more likely that they will follow through with attending as they don't feel it is something they have been 'sent' to. It can also create a sense of empowerment for taking responsibility for themselves.
Where to refer to:
- Wellbeing Services - Direct the student to our Book an Appointment webpage
- External Services - Direct the student to our Local and national services webpage
The situation is urgent if you believe the student may be at risk of harm to themselves or others or they are displaying one or more of the following:
- Behaving out of character (eg. withdrawn, elated).
- Expressing suicidal thoughts.
- Appears to need immediate medical assistance.
- Has completely stopped functioning.
- Seems very disorientated and out of touch with reality.
- May be at risk of serious self harm.
- Is violent or threatening violence to people or property.
- At risk of becoming homeless.
Who to contact
The first thing to do in an emergency is to encourage the student to make an urgent appointment with their doctor. The doctors at the Student Health Centre on Streatham Campus can, in an emergency, see students who do not have a doctor in Exeter.
Please see our Urgent Support page for further information.
In all situations
- Try to stay calm.
- Engage with the student if possible but put safety first.
- Remember confidentiality guidelines.
- Prioritise your own safety and that of others.
- Wherever possible, try to inform a colleague about the situation as back up support for yourself.
- Make sure that you debrief by talking the situation through with a colleague, Wellbeing Services or Head of Student Support.
- Keep a written record of events.
Students who are finding it difficult to cope with exams should be directed to their GP in the first instance as Wellbeing Services require medical evidence in order to put specific exam arrangements in place.
It is important to note that these arrangements are temporary. If a student could benefit from longer term support we would advise them to contact us for an assessment where we will be able to support them to get an Individual Learning Plan in place for the duration of their studies.
Deadlines for applications for exam arrangements are noted on the examinations webpage. If students are not currently working with Wellbeing Services, they should contact us prior to this date to ask for an 'exam arrangements appointment'. If they are currently working with us then they should discuss their needs with their practitioner.
If a student is wanting to apply for mitigation this should first be discussed with the College or staff at the Info Point who will be able to offer advice and support with regards to the application procedure. Please also see the University’s guidelines on mitigation.
If the student has never attended Wellbeing Services we will ask that they first see their GP regarding the mitigation concerns. We will then be happy to meet with the student to discuss support options if appropriate.
If a student is currently (or previously) receiving support from Wellbeing we will be happy to send a letter to the College which may be considered in support of the application for mitigation. The letter will state the dates that the student attended Wellbeing Services and the type of support they had been offered. Before a letter of attendance can be sent to the College, we will ask the student to give us their written consent.
If more detailed information is required, the student should request this from their GP; usual University procedure requires the provision of medical evidence when applying for mitigation on health grounds. Additionally, if they have met with the Mental Health Pathway, they may be able to offer a more detailed letter. This is on an individual basis and must be discussed with the students wellbeing practitioner.
It is important to know that the responsibility for decisions around academic progress lies with the college or department concerned.
The Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedure is a supportive procedure used when a student’s health and behaviour is having a detrimental impact on their ability to progress and function at university.
The aim of the procedure is to:
- Ensure the best interests of the student are being considered in relation to their personal situation, health and/or any disability they experience
- Ensure that the student is receiving adequate support
- Ensure that reasonable adjustments have been considered and where appropriate put in place
- Enable the student to progress, meet the required learning outcomes and complete their course
- Identify a plan of how to progress with clear boundaries and expectations, including continuing their course with adjustments, interrupting, repeating a year of study.
The Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedure is used as an alternative to any disciplinary procedure where there is sufficient concern that a student’s behaviour could be the result of disability, ill health or have an impact on the health & safety of the student or other people.
Staff who have any level of concern about a student’s health or behaviour should consider the use of this procedure.
If staff are unsure about whether to implement this procedure, they can seek advice and discuss their concerns, anonymously and in general terms with Wellbeing Services and the Student Health Centre.
Some examples of when it may be appropriate to use Health Wellbeing and Support for Study include:
- When a student is struggling to keep the required academic deadlines or requirements and there is concern that their health, behaviour or disability is contributing to their progression.
- When a student has not engaged with study for a period of time without reason given. Absence is often an indication that there is an underlying difficulty occurring for the student.
- When there has been a significant change in the student’s academic achievement and/or engagement at university.
- When there may be a number of third party reports about a student, from departments in the University or from friends of a particular student. These again may be an indication that there is a need to address.
- When there is concern about how well a student may manage their learning experience on a year abroad/placement/field trip. Students may have been receiving support and staff may be concerned as to how well a student may cope in an unusual environment even when support issues have been addressed.
Academic and support staff may initiate use of the procedure if concern for the student is sufficient. Consultation with Head of College/Line Manager would be recommended.
For full details of the procedure:
Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures (HWSSP) – Exeter and Penryn Campuses (Formerly Health Wellbeing and Fitness to Study Procedure)
Download our Dyslexia Marking Guidelines
Information on alternative formats that are available for students and staff.