Student Mental Health Guidelines for Staff

Responding to Students with Mental Health Needs - Staff Guidelines

Taking appropriate action to deal with students causing concern/in distress

Staff should be aware of any departmental procedures. In academic departments, this may include discussion with the Head of Department or the student’s personal tutor. In the residences the warden or residence manager must be involved.

If the situation is urgent

In a violent or potentially violent situation, or if the student needs to be physically restrained to prevent serious self-harm, the police should be called by phoning 999 or alternatively the University’s Security Control Office on 2222 from an internal phone. (The police have the power to remove the student to a place of safety for assessment by a doctor and social worker.)

If the student has already taken an overdose or harmed him or herself an ambulance should be called immediately. In less urgent cases, the Mental Health Adviser or a member of the Counselling Service may be able to offer advice and support.

Risk of any form of serious harm to the student or to others must be treated as urgent. Any expression of suicidal thoughts should be treated as requiring immediate attention. Those who have formulated a plan of action are particularly at risk. Some students may deliberately take a small overdose as a ‘cry for help’ (para-suicide). This is high-risk behaviour. Those who do this may misjudge the dose or may not appreciate the dangers of a particular medication. Students who harm themselves, for example by cutting parts of their body, are not always suicidal, but some may be.

If the student will accept help

If the situation is urgent, the student should be referred directly to his or her GP, who should be told that the student is suicidal. If the student is willing and able to talk about the situation a referral to the Mental Health Adviser/ Counselling Service should be made. Staff may find it helpful to discuss individual cases with the Service and are encouraged to phone to ask for advice.

If the student will not accept help

If possible, the student’s GP should be told about the situation and asked to see the student as an emergency. In exceptional circumstances, where someone may be at risk, GPs can visit patients without prior agreement. Alternatively, one of the GPs at the University Student Health Centre may be asked for advice if the student is not registered in Liverpool or refuses to give the name of his or her GP.

If the situation is not urgent

A student with mental health support needs may have difficulty functioning academically or in other areas of life.

If the student will accept help

The student may be asked about the type of help that she or he feels necessary and given help to access that service. Staff may also refer directly to one of the support services or seek further advice from, for example, the counselling service or the GPs at Student Health. Non-specialist staff who wish to offer to help individual students, should be clear that they have the time and/or skill to do this and should consider whether such involvement could conflict with their professional role. They should ensure that they know whom to approach for consultation or support.

If the student will not accept help

If a student refuses help and is not at that time suicidal or a risk to others, it may not be possible to do anything unless a crisis develops. The student should be encouraged to ask for help. If necessary, the student’s GP should be made aware of the situation. In the case that the student is not registered in Liverpool and refuses to give the name of his or her GP, the GPs at the University Student Health Centre or a member of the Student Counselling Service may be able to advise.


Heads of Department, managers or supervisors should always be informed in writing of any interaction with the student on the part of members of staff, including any actions and decisions taken. The guidelines on pages 4-6 should be followed to maintain appropriate confidentiality. All personal information should be kept in locked filing cabinets, if necessary in sealed envelopes marked confidential