Supporting students who are in distress, and minding yourself

Information for SU Officers, from USI Mental Health

There may be times when SU Officers have contact from students who are in distress, in need of crisis support, or times when a death (or deaths) by suspected suicide has occurred. It can be difficult to know what is helpful for, or available to you and others, when presented with a crisis. The following information can help SU Officers navigate such times, with an emphasis on minding their own wellbeing during such challenging times.

The welfare and wellbeing of SU Officers themselves is always paramount. SU Officers should be mindful of their personal capacity to support others in challenging or traumatic situations. As a ‘helper’, it is important to tend to your own mental health needs in the first instance. For example, if an SU Officer is personally impacted by the occurrence of a suicide or suicide attempt on campus, they should seek support and guidance for themselves as a priority, focus on their own self-care, and step away from things if they need to.

Getting support from others

Students’ Union/ Campus Supports

  • SU Officers should work collaboratively with campus supports as much as possible to support the student body when serious incidents occur. They should familiarise themselves with all the difference support options and offerings available across their particular campus and locally.
  • Campuses will have an emergency response plan or guidance in place for incidents such as the death of a student (or students) by suicide. The students’ union should be connected with such plans. SU Officers should make themselves familiar with such plans and key personnel involved in responding to serious incidents.

USI/ Students’ Union

  • USI representatives, namely the USI Vice-President for Welfare, the relevant Regional Officer, and the Mental Health Programme Manager are available in the following ways:
  • The SU should contact one of the above USI representatives in cases of students in high risk/distress, or incidents of suspected suicide/ suicide attempts and should notify the representative of the existence of the case as soon as possible. If the SU Officer would like advice/ assistance in dealing with the case they may provide information as required to brief the USI representative, but if not, it is sufficient to just report the case as a case of high distress/ suicide attempt etc. This is advisable for two reasons – to allow USI to provide practice and emotional support and guidance to officers, and to allow USI to collate information on incidences, which can help to inform our ongoing work.
  • USI representatives will be available to meet with members of the SU in whatever format most suits the SU. In the event of a suicide attempt, suicide, or death of a student, USI will seek such a meeting with the SU. This is to support the wellbeing of the SU team and explore what might be required in the coming days and weeks.
  • Where the students’ union are in favour, USI representatives can also reach out to mental health support services on campus, to offer any support they can.
  • In the days and weeks that follow an incident such as a suspected suicide(s), USI representatives will maintain continued communication with the SU Welfare Officer or President – weekly, or more frequently if required.
  • USI representatives will take the lead from the SU regarding sharing of sources of support. USI will reshare local sources of support as shared by the SU social media feeds first, and after a short time will share national sources of support as well as signposting to relevant information on the USI mental health website.
  • The USI Mental Health Programme Manager is connected to many other organisations who work in mental health promotion and suicide prevention at national levels. They are also connected with the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention. By engaging with USI representatives, other opportunities to engage with local or national mental health services, initiatives and services may arise.

Helpful information 

It can be helpful to take time out to increase your own awareness and understanding of suicide, self-harm and supporting others.  


A range of suicide prevention training programmes is available from the HSE. These free programmes can increase your confidence and skills in the areas of suicide prevention and intervention. They include Living works START (90 minute online programme), safeTALK (half day programme), ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, 2-day programme) and others on suicide bereavement, and self-harm. 

Trusted web content on supporting others 

24/7 support and information 

For information on how to access help for yourself or someone else, please see the following links:

Suicide bereavement support and information