Published 15th September 2020
World Suicide Prevention Day
In 2008, there were, unfortunately, more than 6,800 people who lost their lives to suicide in the UK. That is almost 19 people per day that year. More than one life every two hours. Every life represents someone’s child, partner, friend or colleague. For each life lost to suicide, at least 135 people are affected by intense grief. This means suicide affects 180 million people per year.
Mental Health in the workplace
Here at Thrive Law, we are passionate about promoting awareness of mental health within the workplace so we have put together a guide to what employers can do to raise awareness of suicide prevention within the workplace. We hope that enough awareness around this can break the stigma and give people hope that suicide is preventable, not inevitable. By simply reaching out to someone and actively listening to their response, we can all make a difference.
Suicide prevention should be at the forefront our of minds 365 days a year, not just one day or week a year.
Unfortunately, most workplaces are relatively unprepared to help employees who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or help support colleagues following the death of a co-worker by suicide. This support is especially crucial as workplaces are often a location where workers spend a large proportion of their time, building and cultivating relationships with colleagues. However, reaching out to colleagues and identifying warning signs for individuals to reach out when they need support may be especially difficult due to the current pandemic.
What can employers do to address suicide prevention within the workplace?
Be aware of individual risk factors
While suicide cannot always be prevented, an understanding of factors that may increase the risk is helpful to have. Some factors which can increase an individual’s risk of suicide are:
- Prior suicide attempts
- Someone close attempting suicide
- Suffering from substance use
- Mental illnesses such as depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc
- The stigma that could discourage an employee from asking for help
- Feeling isolated due to actual or perceived discrimination related to race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, etc.
Train staff to help spot the signs
It is important as a company to ensure that managers and colleagues are trained to spot the signs of someone who potentially needs help, as the sooner the warning signs are spotted, the sooner the individual effect may receive the crucial support they need, lowering the risk of their illness escalating into a longer-term condition or into a permanent decision.
To successfully promote suicide prevention within your business, you should try and have a workplace environment which encourages communication, offering a sense of safety. Senior management/HR has a crucial role in this and should advocate for changes to be made in order to educate the workforce about mental ill-health and what support is available.
Managers and employees could/should be enrolled onto Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) training which teaches them how to spot mental ill-health and effectively manage/signpost someone experiencing mental ill as this support is invaluable and could save a life.
Thrive currently have four mental health first aiders, out of a team of eight! If you want more information on this type of training, please get in touch we can recommend an amazing trainer, just email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on supporting mental health in the workplace, please click here.
Thrive Wellbeing is a mental health programme helping businesses to change their approach to employee mental health. Our 12-month wellbeing programme package is dedicated to helping you and your team champion mental health and offers something for everyone. The Thrive Wellbeing Programme has various online modules to complete, with guides for management, template policies, forms and emails, all ready to download and use in your business. As well as all these resources at your fingertips, you’ll receive regular email and video updates to help you keep the conversations going, and you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of 1-2-1 support from a dedicated, qualified solicitor.
This is an online interactive platform to create a healthy and inclusive workplace, it offers expert advice and support on mental health in the workplace! The programme has outstanding long-term benefits for businesses in terms of promoting a healthy and barrier-free workplace leading to reduced sickness absences and increased productivity amongst your staff!
Please get in touch here to invest in your business and your employees!
Develop an action plan on how to promote positive mental health
This may include:
- Identifying why your business is committed to promoting a positive image around mental health and what the specific objectives of the organisation are
- Putting support in place for staff experiencing mental ill-health
- Creating a mental health policy and reviewing existing policies to ensure managers and staff know where to go for support and further information when required
- Ensuring that senior management and mental health first aiders encourage healthy behaviours, for example, having lunch away from their desk, ensuring time is set aside should they feel overwhelmed etc.
Consider how to support the employee
If a team member’s mental ill health amounts to a disability, an organisation must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help them carry out their job without being at a disadvantage. However, whether any mental health condition amounts to a disability or not, employers may want to make changes that will assist employees who are struggling at work. These changes do not need to be drastic and may be small and simple steps, for example, allowing an employee to have more breaks or working flexibly if they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Once an adjustment has been agreed, a manager should document this in writing, and this should be reviewed on a weekly or monthly basis moving forward in order to ensure that the support required is being delivered. Acas has also provided a list of common adjustments for staff experiencing mental ill-health which can be downloaded here.
Avoiding actions which may cause further periods of mental ill-health
Employees who have previously experienced a suicide attempt or know someone who has attempted suicide may find it beneficial to develop Wellness Action Plans, this can be used to identify:
- Triggers, symptoms and early warning signs
- How mental ill health may impact performance
- What support may be required from management/at work
The charity Mind has a practical guide on creating Wellness Action Plans which can be found here.
How can Thrive Help?
To find out more about the Mental Health First Aid training we can provide, please contact us at email@example.com for your free quote today. Please note, due to the pandemic this training can now be taken online spread over several weeks on a zoom call rather than a 2-day face to face course.
By Uthman El Dharrat and Alicia Collinson