Suicide prevention in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, and is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds. These shocking statistics mean that suicide prevention is an important issue for employers. Workplaces can play a key role in suicide prevention efforts.
Implementing a comprehensive suicide prevention campaign in your workplace can save lives. This article will provide an overview of workplace suicide prevention and give actionable tips for developing an effective programme.
Understanding the issue
The first step is understanding why suicide prevention matters in the workplace. Here are some key points:
- Employees spend a significant amount of time at work each week. So co-workers may be the first to notice warning signs.
- Stressors like job insecurity, conflict, and overwork can negatively impact mental health.
- Access to mental health services and support is limited for some employees.
- Employees experiencing thoughts of suicide often show warning signs at work first.
- A workplace suicide can traumatise the entire staff.
Workplace campaigns help address these issues directly. They raise awareness, reduce stigma, and connect employees with essential resources.
Reducing the stigma of mental health
Stigma is one of the biggest barriers to suicide prevention. Myths and misconceptions about suicide can discourage people from seeking help.
A workplace campaign should promote open, judgement-free conversations about mental health and suicide. It’s important to communicate that thoughts of suicide are common and treatable. And that asking for help is a sign of strength.
Start by providing basic education on mental health and suicide prevention. Have employees take a short training module or info session. Make sure to debunk stigmatising myths, share facts and statistics, and explain warning signs.
Normalising conversations about mental health is key to reducing stigma.
Recognising the warning signs
Part of workplace suicide prevention is enabling employees to recognise warning signs. While not everyone experiencing thoughts of suicide will show signs, most do exhibit some changes in behaviour or mood.
Here are some common warning signs that may indicate risk of suicide:
- Expressing hopeless or negative feelings about the future
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Showing rage, anger, or seeking revenge
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Withdrawing from social activities and isolating
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Giving away possessions
Of course, warning signs will vary by individual. The key is knowing your employees well enough to detect changes that seem out of character. Any dramatic shifts in mood, behavior, or disposition should prompt concern.
Make sure employees understand how vital it is to act on warning signs. Speaking up could save a life.
Providing suicide prevention support in the workplace
When an employee does exhibit warning signs, compassionate support is critical. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- Ask directly about suicide in a caring, non-judgmental way
- Listen without lecturing
- Express concern and care
- Consult HR about support options
- Encourage professional mental health support
- Follow up and check in
- Minimise their feelings or experience
- Get angry or frustrated
- Interrupt or give unsolicited advice
- Promise confidentiality
- Try to handle it alone
HR can connect employees to mental health professionals and resources like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Always take warning signs seriously and advocate for support.
Creating a crisis plan
Every workplace should have a suicide crisis plan detailing response protocols. This ensures you can act quickly and effectively if an employee expresses suicidal intent.
The plan should cover:
- Who to contact first – usually a mental health professional, HR rep, or supervisor
- How to keep the individual safe in the immediate term
- How to connect them with help like a counsellor or EAP
- How to monitor and follow-up after the crisis has stabilised
- How to communicate with staff after a suicide attempt or death
Make sure all staff understand the plan. Quick intervention during a crisis can save lives.
Providing ongoing support
Workplace suicide prevention should also include ongoing mental health support:
- Offer free counselling through an EAP
- Host regular mental health check-ins or screenings
- Provide stress and time management resources
- Encourage employees to take time off as neede
- Foster an open culture around mental health
- Train managers on supporting staffers’ wellbeing
A comprehensive employee wellness programme makes a big difference. Promote healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety year-round.
Evaluating your Suicide Prevention in the Workplace programme
The final step is evaluating and improving your workplace suicide prevention programme. Ask employees for input and feedback regularly. Track participation levels and awareness growth over time.
Be prepared to modify the programme to better suit your workplace’s needs. Implementing an effective suicide prevention campaign takes time and commitment. But it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep employees safe.
The next steps
Workplaces play a vital role in preventing suicide. A comprehensive workplace programme raises awareness, provides training, supports employees, and creates a culture of openness around mental health. If you’re ready to implement a programme, our suicide prevention campaigns provide the resources you need. Reach out today to learn more.