World Suicide Prevention Day – The Importance of Suicide Awareness in the Workplace
Suicide is an international public health challenge. It is estimated that around 800,000 people die from suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds.
The impact of every single one of these deaths on families, friends and the wider community is huge.
But suicide is preventable, and we can all play a part in reducing this number by raising awareness, starting conversations, and learning how we can support someone who may be thinking about taking their own life.
Every year on 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day aims to spread this message across the globe, and it’s one we want to help share.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2023
The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day 2023 is Creating Hope Through Action.
The following quote from the World Health Organisation gives an insight into the meaning behind the theme:
“This theme is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us. By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them.”
On 10th September, organisations and individuals worldwide will join to host events, activities and initiatives that focus on suicide prevention, aiming to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and highlight the invaluable resources that are available for those struggling.
Why is suicide awareness and prevention important, and what role can employers play?
Suicide is much more common than people think. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 15 people attempt suicide and 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts at some time in their life.
Death by suicide is a tragedy both for those who take their own lives and their loved ones and can run in a vicious circle. Research by UCL found that people bereaved by the sudden death of a friend or family member are 65% more likely to attempt suicide if the deceased died by suicide than if they died by natural causes. Furthermore, poor mental health and suicide also has wider detrimental repercussions on workplaces, industries and communities.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, yet, despite this, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and suicide and talking about it can be difficult. Raising awareness helps to break down this stigma, encourages people to seek help and empowers individuals to act when they or someone they know may be at risk of harm.
Employers can play an important role in promoting a greater understanding of mental health and suicide and help save lives by working to develop a positive workplace mental health culture and educating their employees on where they can seek help and how they can support their own and others’ mental wellbeing.
Suicide prevention at work
The workplace can be an excellent platform for suicide prevention efforts, as employees develop strong relationships and are able to recognise any changes in their colleagues’ behaviour. This can be extremely advantageous in terms of picking up on changes that might suggest an individual is at risk of suicide or experiencing poor mental health.
Navigating the topic of suicide in the workplace can be a daunting task, with many organisations, managers and employees not feeling confident or well-equipped enough to approach the topic. However, considering 9% of employees are currently experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it is critical that employers take action.
Certain industries are more likely to see higher rates of suicide than others, suggesting that companies in these sectors may need to take additional action in terms of awareness and prevention.
Statistics show, for example, that female nurses are 24% more likely to die by suicide than the national average for women, while the risk of suicide in men working in construction roles is three times higher than the male national average, with those in skilled trades over 35% more likely to take their own lives.
This may be due to cultural reasons (construction continues to be a male-dominated industry where damaging gender stereotypes are still pervasive), as well as the physical and emotional pressures, instability and lower wages often associated with these roles.
But how do workplaces raise awareness of suicide? And what actions can they take to support employee mental health and help prevent suicide?
How to support employee mental health and prevent suicide in the workplace
Create an open and supportive environment
Creating an atmosphere where staff feel comfortable discussing their health, both mental and physical, without fear of being judged or facing repercussions is essential for establishing a mentally healthy workplace.
Promote open communication by making sure everyone is aware that it is acceptable to talk about mental health and that they can approach management or HR if they need to express their emotions or have any questions, worries or concerns.
Provide mental health training
Mental health training can help your managers to become better equipped to recognise poor mental health in their teams and initiate conversations about mental health in the workplace. This will help to create a proactive, preventative and supportive company culture, thus reducing the risk of mental ill health and suicide amongst your workforce.
Provide mental health resources
Providing mental health resources will show individuals that they are supported and help empower them to take control of their mental wellbeing, as well as helping to create an open dialogue around mental health.
Mental health resources could include leaflets, a dedicated wellbeing officer, helplines, support groups, therapy, and crisis intervention services.
Develop a suicide prevention policy
Managing suicide in the workplace can be difficult, and many people may not feel equipped to handle such a sensitive topic. A suicide strategy and prevention policy are vital tools in ensuring everyone in the organisation is aware of how to respond if they are concerned about a colleague’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Your strategy should include workplace policies for improving employee wellbeing, instructions on how to identify warning signs, what to do if someone is having suicidal thoughts, and how to support people if a tragic or traumatic event does occur.
Regularly check in with employees
Lack of regular communication can lead to missed opportunities for early intervention and support. Regularly checking in with employees is therefore a crucial aspect of effective management and can play a significant role in supporting mental health in the workplace, helping to foster a sense of community and connection among team members, which can in turn result in higher morale and productivity.
Encourage self-care and a healthy lifestyle
Employees should be encouraged to prioritise their mental health by developing healthy habits like eating well, exercising, getting proper rest, and taking breaks from work. Offering meditation or yoga sessions could help them to manage stress and anxiety more effectively.
How to recognise poor mental health amongst employees
Recognising the signs of poor mental health is critical in preventing the deterioration of mental wellbeing.
There are a wide range of symptoms that can indicate poor mental health, and these can manifest both mentally and physically. Signs could include changes in mood, sleeping patterns, energy levels and motivation; problems with concentration; difficulty in making decisions; a drop in work performance; withdrawal from colleagues, family, and friends; an increase in reckless behaviour; and increased alcohol or drug use.
If you notice any of these signs, approach the individual with empathy and concern, or raise your concerns with a supervisor, family member or friend. Encourage them to access mental health resources, for example by suggesting that they book an appointment with their GP or referring them to counselling or other support services.
At Medigold Health, we believe that an open dialogue about mental health is an important step in suicide prevention. By raising awareness and increasing understanding, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and remind people that they are not alone.
Below is a list of organisations within the UK that you can contact for support if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and needs to talk:
Samaritans: A 24/7 helpline for anyone in the UK feeling overwhelmed or suicidal. Call 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably): A helpline and website offering support for men in the UK who are struggling with mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit their website here.
Papyrus: A charity dedicated to preventing young suicide in the UK. They provide a helpline, online chat service and text support service for people aged 35 and under. Call 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697, or visit their website here.
Mind: A charity providing information and support for anyone experiencing mental health issues, including those thinking about suicide. Visit their website at here.
The Mix: A free and confidential helpline and online support service for young people aged 13-25 in the UK struggling with any issue, including thoughts of suicide. Call 0808 808 4994 or visit their website here.
Medigold Health offers a wide range of support services, tools and training courses for managers, employees and workplace ambassadors. Developed by experts in mental health and wellbeing, they can help you to build a more mentally healthy workplace, empower your people and reduce their risk of developing mental health issues. To learn more about these services and how they can support your organisation, click here.
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