Crises such as acute distress and imminent risk of self-harm have a significant impact on campus members’ mental health and success in an academic setting. They also have an impact on others and can affect the entire campus community. Crises are also often complicated situations that require multiple roles and perspectives and a well-coordinated response. Crisis management protocols are critical, therefore, to enable the campus community to respond effectively to crisis situations which often involve acute distress or imminent risk of self-harm. Such situations require an elevated level of response in order to ensure the safety of all involved. It is essential that all staff and faculty understand their role within the institution’s crisis management protocols and what is expected of them. Expectations around safe support from students in such circumstances can also be indicated.

The following are key elements of a crisis management plan:

  • Campus-wide dissemination of city and provincial crisis hotlines as well as the National Suicide Hotline, (1-800-SUICIDE).
  • Faculty and staff awareness of the types of situations and circumstances that require crisis management, what the protocols are, and what their role is within these. This involves also understanding how an institution’s policies, provincial legislation and professional guidelines inform decisions related to what information is shared and when to notify authorities when the safety of the individual or others is involved.
  • Effective communication and coordination processes to support students with serious ongoing mental health concerns, including options available for mental health leave as well as re-entry processes to support transition back to academic programs. Similar components for employees should likewise be provided.
  • Postvention programming to support students, faculty and staff following the death of a campus member (e.g. by suicide, violence, alcohol-related injury).


  • Broad campus training for staff and faculty regarding emergency procedures and crisis response.
  • Cross-training sessions for campus security, student residences, counselling, medical, disability, equity, aboriginal, international, and other student services to build strong relationships and protocols for emergency situations.
  • Cross-functional team with established protocols for communications and decision-making to support students with serious on-going mental health issues.
  • Summary guidance for students in providing assistance and notifying staff or care providers when emergency situations arise (e.g. substance overdose). 

Key Considerations

  • Does your campus provide information on procedures and guidelines consistent with institutional policy for responding to threats, emergencies, and crisis situations?
  • Do you have systems and procedures in place to disseminate timely and accurate information to students and other members of the campus community during threat emergency situations?
  • When a situation is indicative of clear and imminent danger to a student or to others, are staff/faculty aware that they must take reasonable personal action such as consulting with other professionals and possibly responsible authorities?
  • Are emergency personnel and peers, staff, professionals on campus aware of best practices re: confidentiality during crisis intervention?
  • Are communications and programs developed so as to not perpetuate stigma, prejudice, and discrimination?
  • Does your campus have a “Good Samaritan” policy provision or a well understood amnesty approach to encourage prompt reporting of alcohol or other drug overdose situations for emergency assistance (without fear of penalties being incurred for involvement in those incidents)? 

Key Resources

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