Information for University or College Staff

A suspected suicide at a college or university can be a traumatic and distressing event, whether or not you knew the person very well. Here you will find information to help you support your students and those around you who have been affected and to help you understand your own feelings during this tough time.

When there has been a suspected suicide in the university community, it can throw up all kinds of feelings. Everyone acts or reacts in their own way. It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong way of feeling.

How you and others may feel:

  • Angry
  • Betrayed
  • Confused
  • Disbelief
  • Fearful
  • Guilty
  • Hurt
  • Numb
  • Responsible
  • Shock
  • Tearful
  • Withdrawn

You may experience one or more of these emotions and that‘s OK. Feelings vary from person to person.

You may also have lots of questions. That’s also common, but often there are no answers. You may have to accept that many questions will always remain unanswered.

At this difficult time, it’s really important to take care of yourself, seek support and talk to others about how you are feeling. Try to be as kind to yourself as you can and take care of your personal needs.


Why do people take their own lives?

Suicide is a complex issue, usually with no single cause, and it is therefore not possible, or helpful, to generalise. Often it is a result of reaching a point where the person can see no other way to stop the pain. Sadly, most people thinking about suicide don’t really want to die but just want the pain they are feeling to stop.


Are there warning signs that someone is suicidal?

It can be very difficult to tell if someone is feeling suicidal, especially if they find it hard to talk about their feelings. People in crisis react in different ways. But there may be clues in behaviour changes, such as if someone is unusually withdrawn or animated.


Other signs that someone might be struggling to cope include:

  • talking specifically about taking their own life
  • seeing no future for themselves
  • giving away their belongings
  • seeing no way to resolve their fears or anxieties
  • becoming more isolated from friends and family
  • unusual displays of anger or impatience towards friends and family
  • being tearful for no obvious reason
  • not being able to cope with small everyday events
  • increased risk-taking.

If you are concerned about someone, encourage them to talk. If someone is talking about having suicidal thoughts and feelings, always take it seriously


What can I do?

Talking with other staff and students about suicide is important at this time; it can help everyone cope with the trauma and grief. Talking to students and listening to their concerns can help highlight students who are having difficulty coping.

You may not know exactly what to say or do – most people don’t. You don’t need to have ready answers or solutions. Being there for others and listening to them is often enough.

Samaritans have a list of other sources of support you may find useful.

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Read more advice on how to support the student community