Mental Health Crisis Intervention
Policy and Protocol
The University would like to thank the Department of Student Support Services at
London Metropolitan University for permission to adapt their policy for crisis intervention
for our use.
Draft 1.1 August 2009 Mark Wilkinson
The University of Stirling is committed to the continuing development of an inclusive and
supportive academic community which meets the needs, and develops the skills, of all
its members. To this end the University seeks to ensure that no one is disadvantaged or
marginalised by our policies and procedures, and that ours is a culture in which
individuals have the confidence and the opportunity to realise their full potential. This
policy is an important contribution to that process.
Mental health is an area in which it is all too easy to stigmatise and categorise, to
separate off individuals as having special needs, or, worse, as presenting special
problems. The emphasis of the University’s Guidelines
(http://www.quality.stir.ac.uk/documents/Guildelines2008.pdf) on supporting the mental
health and wellbeing of students offers advice and guidance on the ways in which, in our
thinking and our actions we can lessen the stress, tension, anxiety and loneliness which
members of a university, as of any organisation, may experience.
The emphasis of this mental health crisis policy is to provide an effective framework for
staff and in some cases students to understand the appropriate action to take in support
of students who may be experiencing mental health crisis.
Understandably staff can at times be uncertain of the best course of action to take when
a student is giving cause for concern. Mental health problems, real or perceived, can
raise anxieties in the staff and students involved. It is therefore important to stay calm,
as anxiety can be “catching “. When a student is in crisis, the situation needs to be
managed correctly. This needs to be supported by good staff training, so that the most
appropriate and best possible outcome is reached for all involved and procedures are
There is a growing awareness among professional bodies and groups working in the
field of student support, of the need for higher education institutions to respond
appropriately to situations where visible signs of mental health difficulties, psychological,
personality or emotional disorders may have a profoundly disturbing impact on the
functioning of individual students and on the well-being of others around them. It is
important to recognise that the majority of students with mental health difficulties are
unlikely to present disruption to others. Indeed, in many cases, the University will not
become aware of students who have mental health difficulties. However, there are a few
incidents in the University each year, where students’ problematic behaviour is related to
issues outlined above and solutions to these are beyond the responsibility of the
This policy is not intended to give guidance on wider matters relating to students with
mental health problems,
(see: http://www.quality.stir.ac.uk/documents/Guildelines2008.pdf ) but is intended to
ensure a consistent and sensitive approach to managing mental health related situations
which become problematic.
1. Purpose of the policy
1.1 The purpose of this policy is:
(i) to identify the appropriate response by staff in the circumstances, set out in the
introduction and where a mental-health centred approach is considered appropriate
instead of or in tandem with University disciplinary procedures.
Disciplinary policies can be found at:
(ii) to provide a co-ordinated and appropriate use of the professional competence
of University staff for dealing with such situations and to provide guidance on
the course of action to be taken in a crisis situation where it is apparent that a
student’s mental state may prevent him/her from gaining benefit from the
educational provision at a particular time or is adversely affecting the interests
of students/staff around them and
(iii) to enable staff to identify the limits to the support which they can provide (for
example ensuring that they do not work beyond their skills, qualifications or capabilities)
and the appropriateness of referring the student on to other agencies either internal or
2. Emergencies / Immediate risk
In a situation where it is believed that a student’s behaviour presents an immediate
risk to themselves or others the emergency services should be contacted by dialling
2222 and routing calls via security. Highland campus: dial 9 999 from the Centre for
Health Science but 2222 from Raigmore Hospital. Western Isles campus dial 0 and ask
for 999. Site security staff should be informed if immediate help is required and to
ensure that staff know where to direct the emergency services.
2.1 The incident should be followed up later by notifying the Mental Health Adviser of the
details of the incident and action taken. This will allow for further response as required
as well as central monitoring in order to review policies and practices.
2.2 Security staff should keep a record of the action taken by the emergency
services and, where appropriate, pass this on to the Mental Health Adviser.
2.3The Head of SDSS or their nominee will ensure that contact is made with the student
and the student’s Academic Departments in order that appropriate arrangements are
made with regard to academic matters. It is possible that the student will need to
temporarily suspend their studies for recuperation and where this is the case the Student
Programmes Office will be consulted.
2.4 In the event of an incident occurring at a University Residence, the Residences
Manager or nominee will notify the emergency services and keep a record of the action
taken. A report form will be completed and a copy sent to the Mental Health Adviser.
3. On-going concerns / No immediate crisis
3.1 In situations where a student’s behaviour or well-being causes concern but does not
present an immediate crisis, initial support is best handled ‘locally’, i.e. through the
academic advising and support systems that exist within the academic department,
Residences, or via the member of academic staff who has identified the difficulty. The
student is more likely to respond to such an approach from a member of staff who is
familiar with their academic or residential context and to take practical advice from
someone who is already known to them. This is consistent with the University’s Mental
Health and Wellbeing Guidelines and the approach advocated via a Mental Health First
3.2 Guidance on how best to make such an approach will be available from staff within
Student Development and Support Services. The relevant ‘local’ member of staff (as
above) should meet with or make contact with the student to explain what the concerns
are and try to get an understanding of the student’s perception of the situation. The
student should be encouraged to access SDSS or to get help through their GP. The
concern should also be reported to SDSS for information, central recording and possible
3.3 Where it is suspected that a student’s behaviour may be related to an ongoing or
emerging mental health problem, it is important that consideration is given at an early
stage to consulting the Mental Health Adviser or Counselling Service who will provide
advice on the support that can be offered by the University (see Helping Distressed
http://www.student-support.stir.ac.uk/documents/HelpingDistressedStudents.pdf ), or
whether referral to an outside agency is necessary. Guidance will also be provided on
considerations that may be necessary to meet obligations under the Disability
Discrimination Act. However, it is extremely important that in cases of emergency, the
procedure outlined in Section 2 is followed to avoid any unnecessary delay.
3.4 With the students’ permission, a referral to the University Counselling Service or
Disability Service may be appropriate in certain cases where the student has sufficient
insight to work through their problems or where their mental health issue could constitute
4. Disruptive behaviour or behaviour otherwise giving cause for serious concern
4.1 If the student refuses to access support and/or continues to exhibit behaviour which
is disruptive or causes concern (for example, displaying bizarre/irrational behaviour,
threatening to self-harm), the Mental Health Adviser should be informed.
The Adviser (or nominee) will then co-ordinate and monitor a response to the situation
through the active intervention of SDSS or other University staff and/or appropriate
external resources and services. This is likely to involve the Counselling Service and the
Disability Service, but could also include the Chaplaincy and other specialist staff such
as the International Student Advisor, as appropriate. It is recognised that not all
situations that require a risk assessment will necessarily result in formal interventions.
4.2 The Mental Health Adviser will contact or meet the student to offer support and make
a decision regarding referral to appropriate local statutory agencies. If it is necessary to
seek the intervention of the student’s GP and local Mental Health services, this will be
done through SDSS and/or the student’s GP.
4.3 Where necessary and appropriate, support will also be offered by SDSS to those
students and colleagues who may be affected by the situation. Staff can also obtain
personal support through the University’s HR Service and Occupational Health Service.
A central file record will be kept in SDSS of all referrals, action and developments in the
case and relevant colleagues will be updated on a ‘need to know’ basis, ensuring
respect for issues of confidentiality.
4.4 In cases where it becomes apparent that an individual student’s support needs are
beyond the responsibilities of the University, the Mental Health Adviser will alert the
Deputy Principal (Learning and Teaching) the Student Programmes Office and if
relevant academic department(s) to the situation. Where appropriate, there will be
contact with Residential Services and other service areas.
4.5 A decision will be made by the Deputy Principal (Learning and Teaching), with
advice from the Mental Health Adviser on whether the student’s nominated emergency
contact should be informed. The University may need to be guided by statutory
provisions (for example, of the Data Protection and Mental Health Acts) in reaching this
5. Suspension [or exclusion] of a student
The Deputy Principal (Learning and Teaching), in consultation with the Student
Programmes Office and the Admissions Progress and Awards Committee (APAC) will
decide, with advice from the Mental Health Adviser or Head of SDSS on whether the
student should be advised to, or required to, take leave of absence from their studies at
the University whilst appropriate means of addressing the situation are considered. If the
student’s behaviour has caused disruption in University managed accommodation, it
may also be necessary for the Residences Manager to make a decision on whether
temporary exclusion from the residence is required. If this is the case then Residential
Services may also (in the case of international students for example) be required to
support the student to locate appropriate alternative accommodation. In reaching these
decisions, due care and consideration will be exercised, through consultation with the
Mental Health Adviser, to avoid as far as possible the student being placed in a more
5.1 It will be made clear to the student that this procedure is quite separate from the
University’s Disciplinary Procedures. It will also be made clear that the University is
recommending this course of action because the student’s behaviour is disturbing
others around them and that either support in dealing with this has been offered and
declined or that support has been put in place but behaviour which is unacceptable has
continued and/or that it is beyond the professional competence of the University to
5.2 If the student’s behaviour is such that under normal circumstances they would have
been subject to disciplinary procedures, this may remain the most appropriate course of
action even if there is evidence that the student has an identified mental health problem
or other diagnosed condition. The fact that a student has mental health difficulties in no
way lessens the duty of care that the University owes to other students though this fact
may be a consideration in deciding appropriate disciplinary action. The duty of care to
students with mental health problems should be balanced against the duty of care to
other students.5.3 Where the student’s next-of-kin/ emergency contact is not able to be
involved in the practical arrangements (e.g. to assist the student in making
arrangements to return home), the student’s academic department(s), in conjunction
with appropriate University services, will endeavour to provide a reasonable level of
support in carrying out these tasks. In some cases, it may be necessary to involve other
external agencies (including embassies/consulates). Where a student has been detained
in hospital under the Mental Health Act it may be necessary to ensure that relevant
support is provided to both the student and his/her family.
5.4 Guidance will also be sought from the Student Money Advisers (Advice and
Development Service) with regard to any impact on the student’s funding situation.
6. Students studying professional programmes
In cases where students are studying on a programme that leads to professional
registration there may be fitness to practise issues that emanate from having a mental
health problem. This may result in the need for a student to be temporarily withdrawn
6.1 Prior to returning to study it may be necessary for a student to attend a fitness to
practise panel so that a decision can be taken regarding their sutabily to continue on the
programme of study. Departments where this is relevant have their own procedures for
managing such cases.
6.3 When fitness to practise issues arise the Unversity may require to closely liase with
work based supervisors and be cognisant of the potental confidentiality issues that may
7. Return to Study
Following a period of absence from the University for recuperation, it may be appropriate
for the student to return to resume studies. If this is the case, it will be necessary to
ensure that the student is assisted in their return to the University.
7.1 The student’s academic department(s) will require the student to produce
appropriate confirmation of their health and ability to resume studying. This is consistent
with requirements that currently apply to staff through Occupational Health procedures.
The Mental Health Adviser can provide guidance on the content of reports.
7.2 A member of SDSS staff will be available to provide assistance with
drawing up a “Return to Study Plan” in consultation with the student and the relevant
academic departments. This will address the specific study-related support needs
of the student in returning to education; the support which is reasonably required in
the short term; involvement of and liaison with external agencies; any longer term
support or adjustments that are reasonably required and any conditions that may
apply to this return to study. The Return to Study Plan should incorporate a risk
management plan which takes account of the experiences which led to the student
initially leaving their course and any other information which is known to be relevant.
Any return to study will be subject to co-operation with this process and adherence to
any agreements made.
7.3 Other members of staff within SDSS will be available to provide advice and support
to facilitate the student’s transition back onto the course, particularly in relation to any
action that might be required under the Disability Discrimination Act and with regard to
8. Remote campuses
The staff may, in the remote campuses, have occasion to liaise closely and more directly
with mental health staff from the local NHS services. Where this is the case students
need to be able to provide full and informed consent to any NHS staff member
discussing their case with a member of the university staff.
9. Data Protection and Freedom of Information Issues
The University’s policies on Data Protection and Freedom of Information contain
guidance on the production and use of sensitive information e.g. details about a
student’s mental health or condition and should be consulted by staff.
10. The University Counselling Service
The University Counselling Service is not an emergency service but it does keep one
appointment per day for dealing with urgent referrals. Staff are also experienced in
dealing with people at risk. Students wishing to see a counsellor would normally arrange
this independently. At their first meeting the student will be given the opportunity to
consider whether a counselling approach will be of benefit to them. If someone needs to
be seen urgently, he/she can be given an ‘emergency’ appointment which means he/she
can usually be seen on the same or the following day.
Telephone: (Student Development and Support Services Reception) 01786 467080
The University Disability Service
The University Disability and /or Counselling Service can give advice to students who
are concerned about a fellow student’s mental health. Students with mental health
problems can register with the Disability Service and receive support and advice. If a
student wishes to inform his or her academic department that he or she has a mental
health problem, a Disability Adviser will carry out a needs assessment and liaise with the
appropriate academic staff. In addition the Disability team can arrange for the student to
receive additional support via a mental health mentor
Telephone: (Student Development and Support Services Reception) 01786 467080