Imminent risk

On rare occasions, student distress may involve a risk of harm to the individual student or others. Safety concerns and risk of harm related to student distress can include:

  • Actual or implied threat of harm to self, including disclosures of thoughts of suicide or self-harm;
  • The expression of hopelessness, for example statements such as “things will never get better”, “no one can help me”, “I don’t see my future improving”, or “what’s the point?”
  • Observed non-accidental injuries (e.g. distinct pattern of burns, scars or cuts) or reported self-harming behaviours (including stated future plans to harm);
  • Indirect behaviours or statements indicating possible intention to harm (e.g. giving away possessions, acquiring methods of harm, or saying farewell unexpectedly).

In the event a student is extremely distressed and expresses immediate thoughts or intentions to harm themselves, or you see evidence of harm in progress:

  • Establish immediate safety, contact emergency services on 000, then call ANU Security.
  • Remain: stay with the student and talk to them if it is safe and appropriate to do so. Take the students concerns very seriously and express your concern for their wellbeing.
  • Advise: let the student know that you are going to help them get the assistance they need. Let them know you think it best if you could help them to talk with a mental health professional or with the University Counselling Centre about the concerns - try to do this with the student’s consent and while they are present.
  • Be transparent: gain the student’s consent to make any calls, and check the accuracy of the information you will provide.
  • Seek support: get support from others to assist, this includes emergency assistance if necessary. A list of useful contact numbers is on the back page of this brochure.

If you see evidence the student has self-harmed or self-injured but you have been able to establish immediate safety and the injuries are minor, administer or seek necessary medical first aid (where qualified to do so).

Please note that prompt, preferably same or next day, medical assessment of any injury is recommended, via connection of the student with their local doctor or medical centre. First aid is unable to rule out or treat possible long-term consequences of self-injury such as infection or scarring.

Under no circumstances agree to keep information pertaining to a risk of serious harm a secret–if in doubt about the limits to confidentiality, check with the University Counselling Centre. Explain to the student that this is why you need to tell someone about your concerns. If the student is unwilling to allow you to engage the assistance of the Counselling Centre, or if serious concerns emerge out of usual business hours, offer the student your support to connect them with a relevant community service.