New first of its kind guidance helping higher education staff deal compassionately with a student death including suspected suicide has been launched.
The new Suicide Postvention Framework, which is a collaboration involving Universities UK, Samaritans and PAYPYRUS – Prevention of Young Suicide, was unveiled during a launch event at Middlesex University on Wednesday.
At least 95 university students took their own lives in the last academic year, according to PAYPRUS.
"Postvention is an opportunity for future prevention. It’s about reviewing what we can do better and a process of constant improvement to address issues that may contribute to suicide." David Malpas, MDX Director of Student Affairs.
Although new data published by the Office for National Statistics shows that there is a significantly lower rate of student suicide among university students in England and Wales compared with the general population, university leaders have said that there is no room for complacency.
This guidance is designed to offer practical advice and support to senior leaders and staff working within student services, who will follow a new three-step approach which includes developing a death response plan and postvention team which can be brought together immediately, alongside providing practical and emotional support, reviewing the incident, supporting tributes, memorials and inquests.
Professor Nic Beech, Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, said: “This guidance is the first of its kind, created by the sector for the sector and setting out the issues that need careful and compassionate management following any student death but especially a suspected death by suicide.
“It’s great strength is the collaborative approach that underpins it with frontline practitioners and researchers from a range of higher education providers working together with expert organisations, families and students to create it. It’s important this partnership continues to embed and evolve the guidance across the sector.”
There will be further events held at at Queen’s University, Belfast on 10 February 2023 and at the University of Stirling and Swansea University later in the year.
David Malpas, MDX Director of Student Affairs who played a key role in developing the guidance, said: “Postvention is an opportunity for future prevention.
“It’s about reviewing what we can do better and a process of constant improvement to address issues that may contribute to suicide. There are learning opportunities from a death that can drive system changes to prevent further deaths and this guidance will help universities improve their response.”
One of the speakers at Wednesday’s event Prof Jo Smith, Professor of Early Intervention and Psychosis, from the University of Worcester, added: “Our research with those affected by suicide tells us we need to use our heads and our hearts and ride a twin chariot when it comes to responding to a student suicide. We need to think really carefully about what we do and to do it with compassion, empathy, warmth and humanity.”
Ged Flynn, CEO, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, said: “Being kind saves lives, the most palpable sense you care will be in the small things.”
The new guidance framework has been published on the Universities UK website.