Background full of random shapes

Suicide prevention training has been ‘invaluable’ in supporting London’s education sector respond to students in crisis, finds new report

  • PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide train 350 higher and further education (HE/FE) staff from across more than 80 London colleges and universities. 
  • New evaluation report outlines positive impact of training in helping to equip staff to develop suicide safer colleges and universities across London. 
  • Report identifies ways of building on this work for new academic year, including a call to focus on under-represented groups. 

PAPYRUS, a leading charity for the prevention of young suicide, and Thrive LDN, a regional public mental health partnership working across the capital, have delivered suicide prevention training to more than 350 higher and further education (HE/FE) staff from across more than 80 London colleges and universities. 

The training is supporting suicide safer communities for students and other young Londoners.

Funded by the Mayor of London, the rollout of training for the HE/FE sector builds on previous initiatives to train and upskill staff in schools and other education settings in suicide prevention.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for those aged between 18-25 years[1]. Furthermore, 75% of anxiety, mood, impulse control, and substance use disorders develop by the age of 24[2]. Since the pandemic, students’ mental health has worsened, with more reporting thoughts of suicide or self-harm, highlighting the need for specialist training provision in the sector. 

This partnership enabled the successful delivery of PAPYRUS’s CPD-certified ‘SPEAK’ (Suicide Prevention – Explore, Ask, Keep-safe) course and the globally-recognised two-day LivingWorks ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course.  

SPEAK training teaches participants how to recognise the signs someone is suicidal and use PAPYRUS’s safety plan to help keep them safe, while ASIST provides an in-depth insight into how to undertake a suicide intervention, using the acclaimed “Pathway for Assisting Life” model. Delivered over the course of several months, HE/FE staff in a variety of roles participated in the training, including student counsellors, safeguarding leads, wellbeing advisors and administrators. 

Commenting on the rollout of the suicide prevention training, Thrive LDN director, Dan Barrett, said: “We know that demand for clinical support services currently outstrips availability. The suicide prevention and awareness training delivered across education settings in London is a helpful way of addressing the current provision gap and equipping staff to respond to students in crisis. Those who have taken the training will be more confident to have and initiate difficult conversations about suicide with students.”  

Evaluating the training 

An evaluation report for the project has been published. The evaluation report outlines the key learnings and an in-depth analysis of training outcomes. 

Download the evaluation report. 

The report will be discussed at the next Thrive LDN Suicide Prevention Group meeting on Friday, 21st July 2023. Feedback from the training has been positive and the evaluation identifies HE/FE staff who have taken the training are now better able to help promote suicide safer colleges and universities across London.  

For example, participant feedback has included comments such as “I learnt to look for certain signs someone might be suicidal and how to ask the ‘direct question’ about it, and then to sign-post them” and “A very valuable workshop that has increased my confidence in dealing with intervention” 

Some participants have gone further and suggested that such training is invaluable and would be helpful to consider as mandatory in every HE/FE institution. Although the resources and capacity to make this training mandatory would be limited, other recommendations have been drawn out of the evaluation, including:  

  • Further engagement and review with HE/FE staff could be undertaken to understand the most effective next steps to prevent student suicides.  
  • Future work should make concerted efforts to liaise with groups under-represented in this project, to understand local need and how best to meet it.  
  • Future project proposals could use this project as a learning opportunity to look at the staffing resource and time required to reach participation targets.  
  • Consideration should be given to how key contacts in local areas are engaged to support the outreach and promotion of future offers, for example, by including other bodies such as local councils.  
  • Consideration should be taken regarding how to maximise attendance at trainings by reducing the drop-out rate.  
  • Future projects could further define the level of training suggested for particular roles, to help ensure attendees get the appropriate input to support them in their particular contexts. 

Planning for next academic year 

As the academic year draws to a close the publication of this report gives the sector plenty to consider ahead of the next year.

To support partners, PAPYRUS and Thrive LDN will be holding an evaluation event on Tuesday, 17 October 2023 from 10am–2.30pm. The session will include training participants, trainers, PAPYRUS and Thrive LDN, alongside other key stakeholders in the project.  If you are interested in joining this event, please register you interest.


[1] Mental Health Foundation (2020) Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic:

[2] Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. (2005). Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602