Memorandum 53 – Suicide Prevention and Treatment Policy

Approved March 2015

Purpose

Suicide is a public health issue of considerable concern resulting in loss of individual lives. It also causes significant trauma for the family members and friends of those who commit suicide. Researchers claim that among college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death (second to accidents). In this light, Norwich University has developed and implemented policies that advise students, faculty, and staff of the proper procedures for identifying and addressing the needs of students exhibiting suicidal tendencies or behavior, and provide for training, where appropriate.

The NU Suicide Prevention Program is based upon the premise that, while we will never be able to eliminate the risk of suicide, we can provide specialized services to identify students at risk for suicide, and also provide crisis and /or on-going mental health services on campus or through referral sources. (See item b below.)

Policy

As a policy matter, Norwich University will not impose a disciplinary dismissal or suspension of a student for seeking mental health treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors. In situations where students indicate by their words or actions that they are a threat to themselves, NU will make individualized and objective assessments of the student’s ability to safely participate in the NU program, based on a reasonable medical and/or mental health practitioner judgment relying on the most current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence. The assessment will determine: 1) the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; 2) the probability that the potentially threatening injury will actually occur; 3) safety or student conduct issues implicated by the student’s actions or threatened actions; and 4) whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. In cases involving potential removal of the student (e.g., when it is found that the nature of their threats and/or behaviors are disruptive to the University community), the student will be afforded the appropriate notice and given the opportunity to respond.

Program Components

The Suicide Prevention Program consists of three interrelated components administered by the NU Counseling and Psychological Services department.

  1. Community education regarding the manifestations of depression and suicide.
  2. Clinical assessment and treatment of students at risk of suicide, or, if appropriate, referral to qualified mental health professionals for clinical assessment. Note: Online students will be referred to mental health professionals in their geographical area. They will also be encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if they feel they are at risk by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). When they do, they will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in their area. They can call anytime 24/7. They can also reach the suicide hotline by going to the web at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
  3. Education of mental health professionals, staff, faculty, and other key individuals in the university community staff regarding the assessment and treatment of suicidal students, including online resources available to non-residential students.

Students Threatening Harm to Themselves

NU will continue to immediately respond in the manner detailed in this memorandum and in other established procedural guidelines to any evidence that a student is in danger of harming him or herself. Appropriate treatment protocol and consultations with outside providers will be utilized as necessary. Outpatient and /or inpatient treatment will be provided in those cases and all necessary steps will be taken to mitigate the risk of harm as well as to return the individual student to full duty status.

Threat Assessment Team

Students who demonstrate suicidal, threatening or aberrant behavior that may represent a threat may be referred to the NU Threat Assessment Team. Upon a preliminary determination that an individual poses a threat of violence to self or exhibits significantly disruptive behavior or need for assistance, the Threat Assessment Team may obtain the student’s criminal history record information and health records. No member of the Threat Assessment Team shall re-disclose any criminal history record information or health information obtained pursuant to this section or otherwise use any record of an individual beyond the purpose for which such disclosure was made to the Threat Assessment Team.

Conversations with Parents of Students

In instances of psychological emergency (e.g., credible suicide/homicide threat, or other form of serious self-harm) the Norwich University Director of Counseling and Psychological Services or his/her designee shall be primarily responsible for contacting the parent of a student when there exists a substantial likelihood that in the near future the student will: (i) cause serious physical harm to him/herself or others as evidenced by recent behavior or any other relevant information or (ii) suffer serious harm due to his/her lack of capacity to protect him/herself from harm or to provide for his/her basic human needs. Notification may be withheld if the student’s treating physician or mental health provider (licensed by a state health regulatory board) has made a part of the student’s record a written statement that, in the exercise of his/her professional judgment, the notification would be reasonably likely to cause substantial harm to the student or another person.

Contact Offices

  • Director of Counseling and Psychological Services: 802.485.2134
  • Commandant: 802.485.2135
  • Dean of Students: 802.485.2640

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