Crisis Protocols

About This Module

Crisis protocols that are specific to a suicide death, suicide attempt, and students' acute distress are essential because they will help a campus respond in an organized, timely, and compassionate way. Clear and consistent protocols that outline what to do and who to contact will also help minimize uncertainty and fear in others.

Ideally, crisis protocols should cover these key components:

Responding to the acutely distressed or suicidal student 
Guidance on how to identify whether a student is at risk for suicide and what to do for him or her, even if help is refused

Establishing an emergency contact notification procedure
If a student is in crisis, who should be notified (e.g., family member, relative), and under what circumstances should the campus contact this person

Addressing issues around voluntary and involuntary psychiatric hospitalization
Considerations for determining if hospitalization is in the best interests of the student

Documenting encounters with the acutely distressed or suicidal student
Information that should be formally documented for each incident

Developing post-crisis follow-up plans
Continuity of care for a student after a crisis, including what do if the student shows signs of distress again

Addressing leave of absence and re-entry
Considerations for determining if a leave of absence is in the best interests of the student, and how to facilitate the student’s return to campus

Responding to a suicide and developing postvention plans
Guidance on what to do if a suicide occurs, including how to support the campus community, and identify other students at risk of suicide.

In the module you can explore the steps involved in developing crisis protocols, and some questions and challenges you might face. There is also a downloadable text version (PDF) of all the content in the module—it can be found above.


The worksheets in the module are also listed below for easy access. They can be downloaded and completed as you move through the steps described in this module.


Higher Education Mental Health Alliance. (2014). Postvention: A guide for response to suicide on college campuses. Retrieved from

The Jed Foundation. (2006). Framework for developing institutional protocols for the acutely distressed or suicidal college student. New York NY: The Jed Foundation.