Go to top of page

How to identify students who might need help

This topic is for all staff, but you and your school’s emergency response team should guide people through this information.

Some behaviours can mean a student needs more support. They might also need referral to a:

A small number of students might need professional support to help manage their reactions to the student’s death.

Let the site leader know

Staff should share any concerns with you as site leader.

Talk to the parents or carers

If concerned, speak with the parent or carer. Encourage them to contact their family doctor or their local CAMHS service.

Refer to a health professional

Don’t feel you have to be sure before you refer a student. Let a health professional check if some type of intervention would help.

Behaviour changes and what to look for

Changes in a student’s behaviour can mean they need more support. This information can help you notice when students change.

Academic performance and participation

  • Unexplained significant drop in subject performance.
  • Difficulties with learning.
  • Difficulty thinking clearly.
  • Loss of interest and commitment.


  • Unexplained significant drop in attendance at school or lessons.
  • Patterns of non-attendance.

Expressing ideas of suicide or depression

  • Expressing interest in death and depressing themes through:
    • Novel, film or video choice.
    • Researching or googling suicide methods.
    • Personal writing, drawing or talking about it.
    • Artwork.
  • Social media posts or conversation focusing on suicide, death and depression.
  • Statements that suggest they have imagined being dead and the impact this will have on others.

Grieving a significant loss

  • Expressing grief about:
    • death of a significant person through illness, accident or suicide.
    • family break-up.
    • relationship break-up.

Mood and behaviour

  • Intensely unhappy.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Fearful.
  • Increased anger.
  • Irritable.
  • Tearful.
  • Emotionally unstable.
  • Withdrawn.
  • Disruptive.
  • Giving away possessions.
  • Saying goodbye.
  • Feeling like a burden.
  • High risk behaviours with cars, drugs, alcohol or weapons.
  • Misconduct.


  • Headaches.
  • Extreme weight gain or loss.
  • Fatigue or exhaustion.
  • Sleeplessness
  • Tiredness.
  • Memory problems.
  • Changes to hygiene and self-care standards.

Relationship changes

  • Lost or broken friendships.
  • Sport or other extracurricular commitments dropped.
  • Choosing to be alone.