Suicide Attempt/Threat Response Policy

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Policy Name: Suicide Attempt/Threat Response Policy
Policy ID Number: 05-04-006
Version Effective Date: December 15, 2011
Policy Applies To: Students
Responsible Office: Student Affairs
Approved By: Dean of Students


INTRODUCTION AND STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

INTRODUCTION 
The New Jersey City University staff is committed to the success of all students and to providing them with quality services. In taking both a proactive and student-centered approach, staff meets this responsibility by enhancing students' involvement, reinforcing their academic experience, and creating and maintaining a nurturing and healthy climate.

PURPOSE 
Suicide is known to be a leading cause of death for college and university students. In addition, suicide, attempted suicide, and suicidal gestures have significant detrimental effects, not only on the involved student, but on others in the campus community.

New Jersey City University (NJCU) seeks to foster a campus community free from all personal abuse, whether that abuse is directed at oneself or others. NJCU commits its resources to provide crisis intervention and to educate and promote discussion about self abuse and violence.

The goal of educational programming offered by the departments within the Division of Student Affairs is to promote an understanding of the dynamics of suicide and to recognize behaviors that may signal suicidal intent. During the course of the school year, the staff of the Counseling and Wellness Centers and/or the Office of the Dean of Students may address issues of depression or general information concerning mental health, stress, and other related topics. Depending upon the program, these collaborative educational efforts may involve staff from other departments as well, i.e., the Department of Residence Life, the Speicher-Rubin Women's Center, the Department of Public Safety, and Project Mentor.

POLICY
GUIDING PRINCIPLES
New Jersey City University staff will:

  • Acknowledge but not stigmatize mental health problems;
  • Make suicide prevention a priority;
  • Encourage students to seek help or treatment that they may need;
  •  Ensure that personal information is kept confidential;
  • Allow students to continue their education as normally as possible by making reasonable accommodations; and
  • Refrain from discrimination against students with mental illnesses, including punitive actions toward those in crisis. (Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; 5/15/07)

SCOPE
These procedures apply to all students, faculty, and staff of New Jersey City University.

DEFINITIONS
For the purpose of this policy, suicide is the purposeful act of causing one's own death. Attempted suicide is the act, threat, or gesture in which a person engages in life threatening behavior(s) with the intent of jeopardizing his/her life.

INTERVENTION
The University's intervention efforts begin with a team of individuals who will rely, in part, on the expertise of the staff from the Student Assistance Team (SAT), including the Counseling and Wellness Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, Public Safety, and as appropriate, Project Mentor, Residence Life, and the Speicher-Rubin Women's Center. Other University professional staff members may be involved as needed to assist those individuals, who are experiencing difficulty, to remain in the University community as safely as possible. Additionally, New Jersey City University expects and encourages student to maintain a reasonable concern for their own self-welfare.

The appropriate "team" will follow procedures as established in this policy, and when safety may be compromised, this group may also participate in decision-making that could lead to separation from the community for any individual whose presence may pose a safety risk to self or others. This decision will be based on an individualized assessment of the student and will be limited to those specific instances in which the student presents a direct threat that cannot be diminished by the provision of reasonable accommodations.

  • Students are encouraged to seek counseling and mental health treatment through campus services or other available avenues.
  • Counseling services and mental health treatment can be made available to members of the campus community affected by a student's depression or other mental health condition as well as to the student.
  • Peer-run groups are available on campus to support students with depression or other mental health conditions.
  •  Emergency psychiatric services can be made available to students when needed.
  • Counseling and mental health treatment provided by [college/university] will be based on the student's preferences, strengths and needs.
  • All services are provided on a voluntary basis and it remains the student's decision whether or not to seek services.
  • NJCU staff/faculty will refer a student to the counseling center8 when the student exhibits academic, behavioral or other difficulties that appear to be due to depression or another mental health condition, or
  • The student has made a suicidal gesture or is known to have contemplated suicide.
  • If a referred student does not seek services through the counseling center or another service provider, the counseling center will make individualized efforts, including direct outreach, to encourage the student to access services.10
  • In the event a student is hospitalized, the counseling center, if requested by the student, will work with the student and the hospital as part of the hospital treatment team to, among other things, ensure appropriate aftercare planning.

REPORTING
Because suicidal attempts may result in death, the early identification of persons at risk for suicide is essential. Help should be sought when individuals are talking about suicide or have taken any actions that could be construed as leading to a possible suicide attempt. In emergencies contact:

On Campus
Public Safety
201-200-3128 (available 24 hours)

Off Campus
Jersey City Police Department
911 (available 24 hours)

Consultation: For consultation, advice can be sought from the following:

Counseling and Wellness Center
201-200-3165

Office of the Dean of Students
201-200-3525

Department of Residence Life (if appropriate)
201-200-2338

CONFIDENTIALITY
Counseling services are confidential. The staff of the Counseling Center will not share information about a student with faculty, staff, administrators or others without the student's consent. The student, not NJCU, is the client of the Counseling Center. When a student enrolls, and if a student becomes a client of the Counseling Center, the student will be asked whom, if anyone, the student wants contacted in case of a psychiatric emergency (e.g., family member, friend, clergy). This information will be on file at the Counseling Center only. Students will be encouraged to update this information.

As appropriate, the staff of the Counseling Center may encourage the student to share information with his/her family or others. As permitted by law, the staff of the Counseling Center may disclose information about a student to the extent needed to protect the student or others from a serious and imminent threat to safety, for example, by making disclosures to crisis intervention or emergency personnel. Disclosures are permitted only if the student will not consent to interventions that will ameliorate the risk.
In addition to the above, all records associated with a reported incident are kept separately by the staff in the Office of the Dean of Students and do not appear as part of the student's academic record. Furthermore, all records associated with a mandated assessment are protected by state laws regarding confidentiality.

PROCEDURES

  • In a situation where the student is deceased:
  • Contact Public Safety, who will in turn, contact the police
  • Public Safety will contact the appropriate senior administrator(s), VP for Student Affairs, VP for Administration and Finance, and the Dean of Students

When the staff of the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Wellness Center and/or the Public Safety department receives a report that a student has made any kind of a suicide attempt, suicide gesture, or has threatened suicide, the following steps will be taken:

  • If the attempt/gesture has just occurred, the attending staff person will contact Public Safety, assess the situation, ask questions and obtain information.
  • Assess the physical space and person for possible dangers such as sharp objects, weapons, open windows, drugs/medication, etc.
  • If you cannot safely remove/disarm the student and secure the scene, wait for Public Safety.
  • Retain any items removed from the scene if possible.
  • Remain with student unless unsafe to do so.
  • Public Safety will call an ambulance to the scene and also contact the Director of the Counseling Center or the counseling staff member who is on emergency duty, who will in turn contact appropriate senior staff as necessary (the Vice President of Student Affairs, the Dean of Students, Director of Residence Life, etc.). The counselor will assist with the student's admittance to the hospital.
  • Additionally, and as appropriate, a staff person from the Counseling Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, or Residence Life, will phone the student's emergency contact and explain the situation. If possible, a request will be made for the parent/guardian to come to the hospital.
  • Arrangements should be made to have someone accompany the student or arrange for support at the hospital.
  • If the student is a resident and is not admitted to the hospital, but feels that s/he is a threat to herself or others, Resident Life staff will care for her until a parent/guardian arrives (an alternate room may be used for that purpose.).
  • The student will be required to participate in four one-hour sessions with a licensed mental health professional who understands that the NJCU suicide policy mandates a comprehensive and in-depth assessment of the student with regard to the precipitating incident, prior attempts and threats, and current suicidal intent to determine whether the student presents a direct threat of substantial harm to himself or others.

MEDICAL AND INITIAL ASSESSMENT

  • Upon release from the hospital, the student (resident or commuter) must give a copy of the release verification from the hospital to a member of the Counseling Center staff as proof.
  • The policy for readmission (as it concerns the suicide policy) to the University may be shared with the student at this point.
  • The student may meet with a counselor from the NJCU Counseling Center and/or choose to see his/her own professional who will agree to report back to the University (via the Release of Records form).
  • Should this incident and/or hospitalization and subsequent release occur on a weekend, the RA or RC should make a copy of the verification form for the file and apprise the emergency duty counselor (via phone) that the student has returned to the dorm. As of Monday morning, the student would be expected to report to the Counseling Center to schedule the initial assessment.
  • To the degree possible, the remaining assessments will occur during the next three subsequent weeks.
  • If the student does not meet the direct threat standard, the professional will be expected to offer suggestions, encourage treatment, and/or seek consent to notify the student's parents as appropriate.
  • Alternatively, if the student does present a direct threat, he/she will be referred to Student Assistance Team (SAT) to participate in a separation hearing to determine the appropriate action (s) to be taken.
  • Failure to adhere to this standard of self-welfare or failure to fulfill the requirements of the assessment following a suicidal incident may result in a request for a suspension or an administrative withdrawal by the Dean of Students.
  • The Dean of Students may take other actions; including contacting the student's parents and/or other significant others in the event of imminent danger to self or others or in the event of repeated suicide attempts.
  • Separation Hearing: The responsible counselor/professional, the student, and an administrator from SAT will comprise the Separation Hearing Board and will meet to determine whether the student presents a direct threat and should be separated from the University community. The counselor/professional will present the reasons as to his/her determination that the student's actions could be construed as a direct threat. The student will have an opportunity to address the administrators and express his/her intentions with regard to the precipitating incident. Please note that this process is not designed to punish the student, but rather to assess the incident and provide counsel as to the most appropriate resolution.
  • A student may appeal the accuracy of an incident report to the Separation Hearing Board. In some instances, in order for the appeal to go forward, a student will be required to sign a release of information authorizing the board to contact and interview witnesses to the incident.
  • If the administrator determines that the student does not present a direct threat, he/she will encourage the student to participate in treatment and request permission to notify the student's parents.
  • If the administrator determines that the student does present a direct threat, the administrator, with the advice of the counselor/professional and the input of the student, will determine whether there are accommodations that can be made to mitigate the threat. This may or may not involve the student's family as allowed through consent or under the health emergency exception to FERPA.
  • If it is felt that the direct threat cannot be diminished, the administrator may request that the student be separated from the campus and will notify the student of the decision. The student will be given the opportunity to appeal this decision to the Dean of Students.
  • The decision of the Dean of Students is final.
  • Process for Readmission: When a student has been separated from the University, because he/she was determined to be a direct threat, he/she should be given specific information about the process for his/her readmission. The University will require that the student provides a statement from a physician or other mental health clinician confirming that he/she is no longer a danger. If it is determined that the student does continue to present a threat, the student may request a second hearing to refute the determination. Here again, the student will have an opportunity to appeal the administrative decision to the Dean of Students.
  • Emergency Screening: If a student appears to present a more immediate danger to himself or others, prior to or during the hearing, the University counselor will connect the student to an emergency facility for evaluation as soon as possible. This action will suspend any action for suspension or withdrawal as a result of a pending hearing. That process will reconvene as necessary when the student is discharged from the emergency facility.


*Parental Notification – Emergency Exception to Confidentiality:
Suicidal situations are highly individual. The primary goal of this policy is the safety of the students. To achieve this, and under the direction of the Dean of Students, appropriate family members will be contacted as necessary to promote the safety of the student and others whose health, life, or safety may be endangered. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 34 CFR 99.36) provides for the release of normally protected student data when it is believed that the student represents a health or safety risk to self or others.

COUNSELING CENTER
Staff from Counseling Center will follow professional ethical guidelines when suicidal or potentially suicidal students seek help directly from that office. The general requirement that counselors keep information confidential does not apply when disclosure is required to prevent clear and imminent danger to the client or others or when legal requirements demand that confidential information be revealed.

The Counseling Center staff will also provide consulting services to University personnel upon a request to assist staff in working with students on issues related to suicide. University faculty and/or staff members who are concerned about questions relating to suicide may call the Counseling office at ext. 3165.

Other University Personnel: All other University personnel are expected to observe these procedures.

Please be advised that the Emergency Protocol policy and the Student Code of Conduct should also be used in determining the best course of action.

*Please note that this document was prepared after reviewing the Campus Suicide Report developed by the Public Advocate's Office and Suicide Policy developed by the University of Illinois.

DATE TO INITIATE REVIEW AND UPDATE
As deemed necessary or appropriate by the Policy Coordinator but at a minimum, at least every 5 years from the effective date.