University of Worcester Professor Co-authors New Guidance to Help Universities Respond to a Student Suicide

Professor Jo Smith

Jo Smith is Professor of Early Intervention and Psychosis at the University of Worcester and has become one of the leading professionals in the UK working to tackle the complex issue of student suicide.

She led the development of the University of Worcester’s highly successful Suicide Safer initiative a multi-agency initiative, bringing together local authorities, NHS Trusts and third sector organisations in a co-ordinated approach to suicide prevention. Since its inception, the initiative has delivered extensive training opportunities, awareness raising, and research, leading to improved student support at Worcester and beyond.

The project has made a local and national contribution to student suicide prevention through public lectures, joint initiatives and campaigns, and training and has been identified as a best practice example in several national guidance, student and sector publications.

This latest guidance, How to respond to a student suicide: Suicide Safer guidance on postvention, which Professor Smith co-authored, was developed by Universities UK in partnership with PAPYRUS and Samaritans, with funding from the Office for Students.

It sets out the steps institutions should take to plan for, respond to and learn from deaths, and includes advice on serious incident reviews and attending inquests.

“Compassionate and timely postvention is about identifying critical actions and learning opportunities,” said Professor Smith. “Effective and compassionate suicide postvention is key to achieving future student suicide prevention.

“I am really pleased to have contributed to this guidance, which I hope universities across the UK will find an invaluable resource.”

This work sits within UUK-PAPYRUS Suicide Safer Universities which includes the sector suicide prevention framework as well as guidance on involving trusted contacts and supporting students on placements.

John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy (Health) at Universities UK, said: “UUK is very grateful to Professor Jo Smith for leading the development of this important guidance. Her expert knowledge, collaborative approach and commitment to work with practitioners and families are reflected throughout.

“We know how important it is to respond effectively, openly and with kindness to student suicides and to learn from each death. We encourage every higher education provider to adopt and implement this guidance as part of our collective commitment to prevent future deaths.”