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Comprehensive Approach: Follow Crisis Management Procedures

When a student is acutely distressed or suicidal, it is important that clear protocols are in place for addressing the crisis. It is also critical that all of the administrators and staff who have a role in addressing the needs and safety of the student and the campus community understand what actions they are expected to take according to the protocols.

The Jed Foundation’s Framework for Developing Institutional Protocols for the Acutely Distressed or Suicidal College Student provides a blueprint for campus officials to use in developing or revising crisis procedures in three key areas: safety, emergency contact notification, and leave of absence and re-entry. With the proliferation of “threat assessment” and other emergency preparedness procedures, administrators should ensure that all protocols are appropriately linked but that efforts to address suicidal behavior and other mental health problems do not suggest that mentally ill students are a threat to the campus community.

Crisis procedures should also include a comprehensive “postvention” program designed to help students deal with their grief and confusion and prevent suicide contagion, following the death of a student by suicide. Postvention involves coordinated, rapid outreach to help specific students and the entire community, which may involve meetings facilitated by the university to provide support during the grieving and recovery process.

Campus-wide dissemination of state or local 24-hour hotlines, plus the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (TALK), is also a critical part of every campus crisis management effort.