Today marks World Suicide Awareness Day and there is a desperate need for more mental health and suicide awareness in the workplace. Every year between 5,500 and 6,000 people in Britain end their own lives. This is more than three times the number of people who die on our roads. Suicide is the leading cause of deaths in men under the age of 50 and men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women. Women in their early twenties are more likely to try and end their lives than other female age groups. And anyone who falls into a protected characteristic group (such as race, religion, sexual orientation etc) are also more susceptible to suicide due to possible previous experiences of bullying and harassment because of discrimination.
Fortunately, this is something that most employers will never encounter. However, the potential risk of suicide is an important one and can often be linked to issues such as workplace stress, bullying or harassment. Suicide and work is a growing public health concern. There are a number of things that employers can do to try to prevent any employee feeling that they need to end their own lives.
There are plenty of specialist organisations who can help employers to ensure they are aware that suicide and suicide prevention is a workplace issue. Zero Suicide Alliance provide a free training course that helps anyone who wishes to learn more about suicide prevention, how to see the signs of potential suicidal people, what to say and what to do to help prevent unnecessary deaths.
What are the warning signs to look out for?
- Look for changes in behaviour, if any of the following are happening and are out of character
- Not joining in with conversations or workplace discussions
- Tiredness and irritability
- Being off sick more often than usual
- If you know they have a family history of depression or suicide
- If they have attempted suicide before, they are more likely to try again
An employer can take steps to help prevent suicide regardless of whether work is a major cause of an employee’s mental health problems. Training managers and supervisors in spotting the early warning signs, how to have a conversation with an employee that they are concerned about and what to do if they remain concerned, are practical ways in which employers can make real inroads into improving the care of their employees.
A workplace that takes measures to prevent stress gives workers an element of control and if it has an open and honest approach to mental health, it is more likely to have a workforce who feel comfortable raising their issues and problems with their employer because they know they will get support.
What measures can employers take to help?
- Promoting good mental health and destigmatising mental health problems by educating staff about mental health issues and suicide.
- Reducing stress at work by creating a stress busting support group where colleagues can go to a given contact and share their concerns with one another and perform regular one to ones with staff so they may share any issues in private.
- Preventing and taking action against bullying and harassment by having and promoting a robust anti bullying and harassment policy at work.
- Extending support and psychological health services by having information leaflets for groups such as Samaritans, and or Employee Assistant Programme (EAP) providers.
- Educating and training managers and other key staff in spotting the signs and having the confidence to approach that member of staff to address the issue.
- Introducing supportive sickness absence and return to work policies.
Would you like more information on Mental Health and Suicide Awareness in the workplace and know how to tackle these issues? Call us on 01706 565332 or drop us an email and we’ll get right back to you.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you