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Mental health and suicide prevention during exam periods

23 May 2022

During exam and assessment period students can experience increased stress and anxiety

This can include thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Our University has planned messages for students to acknowledge this and to show the wide range of support that is available. We will be sharing this messaging on our Student News pages as they are released.

As staff, we should be mindful of the extra pressures that exams and assessments may have on students’ wellbeing and mental health and keep an eye out for signs of struggle or crisis so that we can offer support and escalate as needed. This includes the following actions below.

Student wellbeing

  • Familiarise yourself with all the support and resources available to students, so that you can confidently offer information and advice. You can find this information on the Supporting our students section on StaffNet.
  • Reach out to students with invitations to get in touch to talk through any aspect of their course or wellbeing – particularly with questions around exams or assessments.
  • Monitor engagement through all the usual channels – attendance, Blackboard, responses to emails, etc. Use your usual School protocols for following-up non-engagement – make clear that you are contacting to check in on them, give clear deadlines to respond by.
  • If a student appears to be struggling with their wellbeing or mental health then they should be encouraged to access support. Direct them to our Counselling and Mental Health Service (The University of Manchester) which provides lots of guidance on managing anxiety and distress. Students can book on to helpful workshops such as ‘Calm your Brain’ which is targeted at managing exam stress. If you feel the student will need 121 advice and support advise them to call 0161 275 2864 between 9.30am - 4.30pm (Monday – Friday) where they can speak with a Triage Support Practitioner. They can also call Health Assured 0800 0283766 who provide 24 hour access to counselling support.
  • If a student disengages from academic work or exams please follow the Disengaged students process. If the disengagement is coupled with concerns about safety or risk please follow the Crisis pathway.

Crisis support for students

  • Familiarise yourself with support available to students in a crisis.
  • Be aware that thoughts around suicide are common. They can range from fleeting thoughts that life is not worth living to more active planning to end life. Ask the question - if someone is expressing thoughts that they want an escape or don’t want to be alive it is important to explore what they mean by this. Lots of people worry that asking and talking about suicide will make suicide more likely to happen – but this isn’t the case. Asking a direct question that requires a yes or no answer will ensure that there is no confusion, and that the person will understand you are asking them about suicide and nothing else. Potentially, sharing these feelings with someone for the first time may give that young person a huge sense of relief. For some helpful guidance on how talk to someone who you think may be suicidal please read an article from Papyrus.
  • If you are concerned that a student appears very unwell, appears vulnerable or is expressing ideas that may put them at risk then please contact the Duty Practitioners at the Counselling and Mental Health Service. For more guidance on this including what to do in an emergency and out-of-hours please refer to the Crisis Pathway.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of students during this busy and stressful time.

All the best,

Student Communications