ORMS is aware of concerns among professional bodies and groups working in the field of student support, of the need for education institutions to respond appropriately to situations where visible signs of mental health difficulties, psychological, personality or emotional disorders may have a profoundly disturbing impact on the functioning of individual students and on the well-being of others around them.
It is important to recognise that the majority of students with mental health difficulties are unlikely to present disruption to others.
Where a student’s academic progress on the course is causing concern, then the procedure outlined in Appendix 1 should be worked through.
2. Purpose of the guidelines
The purpose of these guidelines is:
to identify the appropriate response by academic and support staff in the circumstances set out in paragraph 1.1 to manage the student’s behaviour;
to provide a co-ordinated and appropriate use of the professional competence ORMS’ staff for dealing with such situations and to provide guidance on the course of action to be taken in a crisis situation where it is apparent that a student’s mental state may prevent him/her from gaining benefit from the educational provision at a particular time or is adversely affecting the interests of students/staff around them;
to enable staff to identify the limits to the support which they can provide and the appropriateness of referring the student on to other agencies either internal or external;
to ensure appropriate support for students and staff affected by or involved in working with students in the aforementioned circumstances.
These guidelines are not intended to give guidance on wider matters relating to students with mental health difficulties. However, it is intended to ensure a consistent and sensitive approach to managing situations that become problematic.
In a situation where it is believed that a student’s behaviour presents an immediate danger to themselves or others, the Emergency Services should be contacted by dialling 999. Callers should give their own name and contact number; the name of the student; current location; and describe as clearly as possible the nature of the behaviour that is giving cause for concern. This should be followed up by immediately notifying the Education Director of the details of the incident and action taken.
The Head of Administration will complete an incident report form and will keep a record of the action taken by the Emergency Services. The Education Director, or nominee, will ensure that contact is made with the student, the student’s course leader, and that appropriate arrangements are made with regard to academic matters. It is possible that the student may need to temporarily suspend their studies for recuperation. (See Sections 6 and 7).
4. On-going concern
In situations where a student’s behaviour or well-being causes concern but does not present an immediate crisis, initial support is best handled ‘locally’, i.e. through the Personal Tutors arrangements that exist within ORMS or, if the behaviour is exhibited in Outreach’s owned accommodation, through the Accommodation Manager. The student is more likely to respond to such an approach from a member of staff who is familiar with their academic or residential context and to take practical advice from someone who is already known to them.
Guidance on how best to make such an approach will be available from ORMS’ managers. The relevant member of staff should meet with or make contact with the student to explain what the concerns are and try to get an understanding of the student’s perception of the situation. The student should be encouraged to access appropriate student support services or to get help through their GP. The concern may, with the student’s permission, also be reported to the Head of Administration for information and possible future support. If there is a concern that a student may be at risk of harming him/herself or others, then obtaining the student’s permission to report these concerns is desirable but not essential. Any decision to break confidentiality should be made, where possible, in consultation with the Education Director.
Where it is suspected that a student’s behaviour may be related to an ongoing or emerging mental health difficulty, it is important that consideration is given at an early stage to consulting the Academic Director. The Head of Administration or nominee will provide advice on the support that can be offered by ORMS, or whether referral to an outside agency is necessary. However, it is extremely important that in cases of emergency, the procedure outlined in section 3.1 is followed and referrals are not filtered through the Admin Team, as this may lead to unnecessary delay.
A referral to a Counselling or Well Being Centre may also be appropriate in certain cases where the student has sufficient insight to work through their problems. With the student’s permission, the GP, Academic or Accommodation staff can liaise usefully about the student’s welfare.
5. Disruptive behaviour or behaviour otherwise giving cause for serious concern
If the student refuses to access support and/or continues to exhibit behaviour that is disruptive or causes concern (for example, excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, distress caused by bereavement, excessive anger, dangerous prank-like behaviour, disappearing for extended periods of time, displaying bizarre/irrational behaviour, threatening to self-harm or harm others), the Education Director should be informed. The Education Director, or nominee, will then co-ordinate and monitor a response to the situation through the active intervention of member(s) of specialist support staff.
An appropriate member of staff will contact or meet the student to offer support and, in conjunction with the Education Director make a decision regarding referral to appropriate agencies. If it is necessary to seek the intervention of the student’s GP, this will be done through the local GP surgery.
Where necessary and appropriate, members of the Management Team may also offer support to those students and colleagues who may be affected by the situation (see Section 8). The Education Director will keep a central file record of all referrals, action and developments in the case, and relevant colleagues will be updated on a ‘need to know’ basis, including the Administration Team to ensure that any financial issues and debt collection activity are taken into account and suspended, if appropriate.
In cases where it becomes apparent that an individual student’s support needs are beyond the responsibilities of ORMS, the Education Director will alert the Head of the relevant academic school to the situation. Where appropriate, there will be contact with the Accommodation Welfare Manager, and Head of Administration, particularly if the student, or others living close to the student, may need to be moved temporarily into alternative accommodation. The student’s course leader will make a decision, with advice from the Education Director (or relevant nominee), on whether the student’s nominated emergency contact should be informed. ORMS may need to be guided by statutory provisions (for example, of the Data Protection and Mental Health Acts) in reaching this decision.
6. Suspension of student
A decision will also be made by the Education Director (or nominee), with advice from the Education Director (or appropriate nominee), on whether the student should be advised to, or required to, take leave of absence from their studies at ORMS whilst appropriate means of addressing the situation are being considered. If the student’s behaviour has caused disruption in Outreach’s accommodation, it may also be necessary for the Accommodation Welfare Manager to make a decision on whether temporary exclusion from the residence is required. In reaching these decisions, due care and consideration will be exercised, through consultation with the Education Director and Head of Administration, to avoid as far as possible the student being placed in a more vulnerable situation.
It will be made clear to the student by the Education Director (or nominee) that this procedure is quite separate from ORMS’ Disciplinary Procedures. It will also be made clear that ORMS is recommending this course of action because the student’s behaviour is disturbing others around them and that either support in dealing with this has been offered and declined or that support has been put in place but behaviour which is unacceptable has continued and/or that it is beyond the professional competence of ORMS and Outreach staff to manage.
If the student’s behaviour is such that under normal circumstances they would have been subject to disciplinary procedures, this may remain the most appropriate course of action even if there is evidence that the student has an identified mental health problem or other diagnosed condition. The fact that a student has mental health difficulties in no way lessens the duty of care that ORMS owes to other students. The duty of care to students with mental health problems should be balanced against the duty of care to other students.
Where the student’s next-of-kin/ emergency contact is not able to be involved in the practical arrangements (e.g. to assist an international student in making arrangements to return home), the Administration Team with other managers will endeavour to provide a reasonable level of support in carrying out these tasks. In some cases, it may be necessary to involve other external agencies (including embassies).
The student should be advised that the Head of Administration and the Quality Manager can be contacted for advice on procedures for suspension from studies, and to offer representation for the student. The Head of Administration will be able to offer advice on the financial implications of suspension.
7. Return to Study
Following a period of absence from ORMS for recuperation, it may be appropriate for the student to return to resume studies. If this is the case, it will be necessary to ensure that the student is assisted by their academic department, with advice from appropriate student support services, in their return to ORMS.
The student’s academic department will require the student to produce appropriate confirmation of their health and ability to resume studying and ORMS may also with the student’s permission request an independent medical report.
A “Return to Study Action Plan” should be provided in consultation with the student and their Course Leader. This will address the specific study-related support needs of the student in returning to education; the support which is reasonably required in the short term; involvement of and liaison with external agencies; any longer term support or adjustments that are reasonably required and any conditions that might or will apply to provision. The Return to Study Action Plan should incorporate a risk management plan that takes account of the experiences that led to the student initially suspending from their course and any other information that is known to be relevant. Any return to study should be subject to co-operation with this process and adherence to any agreements made.
Other members of staff will be available to provide advice and support to facilitate the student’s transition back onto the course. This will be arranged with the direct involvement of, or in consultation with, the Head of Administration.
8. Support for staff and students
Where appropriate the Education Director will hold a de-briefing meeting for relevant staff within two weeks of a crisis intervention. A brief record of the meeting, along with an indication of any proposed policy or procedural changes will be made and circulated to all present and the Head of Administration.
Students who require personal counselling or support should contact their own GP as ORMS cannot provides these facilities. Members of staff at ORMS may be able to provide some level of personal support, but not at a professional level. The Head of Administration keeps a list of qualified counsellors in the local area.