Suicide Awareness in the Workplace
From our September Newsletter
By Stephanie Scherle
Every year on the 10th of September, people around the world focus on Suicide Prevention Day to bring attention to the topic, share information, and reduce stigma. Although as business psychologists, suicide is not a topic that we can directly support our clients with, we would like to do our part by sharing some tips on how you might recognise and talk to someone struggling with suicidal feelings at work. Additionally, we want to highlight the benefits of Mental Health First Aiders within your organisation.
Warning Signs to Look out for in Colleagues
They appear uncharacteristically sad, quiet, or depressed
They express feelings of hopelessness and feeling trapped
They seem to see no purpose in life and seem to have no interest in things
They are withdrawing from others
They talk/joke about suicide
They mention plans for self-harm
They show interest in end-of-life affairs and policies
They neglect work, appearance, or hygiene
How Can You Approach Them?
If you don't feel comfortable approaching someone you are worried about, find someone else who can speak to them.
If you feel comfortable speaking to your colleague, take them to a quiet, private place to have a conversation to determine next steps.
Be direct about your concern and tell them that they are not alone and that it's okay to talk about it.
The most important thing: give them a chance to explain and listen to them.
Be considerate and empathetic, even when you might feel angry or upset about what your colleague is saying.
Don't challenge their values or mimimise their pain. Don't give advice about their problems to them, stay in the present while listening.
Help them find the right resources or direct them to a Mental Health First Aider.
Make sure you check in with yourself and what you need after the conversation.
You can find more information here:
How Mental Health First Aiders Can Help Your Organisation
Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) in the workplace are the point of contact for employees who are experiencing mental health issues or emotional distress. This can help employees know where to turn in times of crisis.
Interactions with MHFAs could range from having an initial conversation to supporting employees to get the appropriate help they need.
Because MHFAs have agreed to help others with their issues, some employees might feel less hesitant to talk to a MHFA.
MHFAs ensure confidentiality and are trained to listen nonjudgmentally.
MHFAs are trained to spot and assess suicide risk factors.
MHFAs can encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies - they can also escalate to the appropriate emergency services if necessary.
How Can You Support Your Mental Health First Aiders?
Put in place a MHFA role and policy document to ensure clarity on expectations.
Empower MHFAs to maintain their skills with regular refresher skills training.
Develop and promote clear referral or assistance pathways so MHFAs can signpost effectively to support.
Increase mental health literacy across the rest of the organisation to help normalise the conversation around mental health.
Regularly check in with your MHFAs.
If you would like some more information on how to support MHFAs and how we can help you help them, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, call 116 123 or text "SHOUT" to 85258.
Colucci E., Jorm A. F., Kelly C. M., Too L. S., Minas H. (2014). Suicide First Aid Guidelines for People from Immigrant and Refugee Backgrounds. Mental Health in Multicultural Australia. https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/suicide_guidelines_booklet_eversion.pdf.
Mulchinock, V. (2019, October 21). The Importance of Supporting Mental Health First Aiders. EAPA. https://www.eapa.org.uk/the-importance-of-supporting-mental-health-first-aiders/.
Responding to Suicide Warning Signs (n.d.). Cigna Healthcare. https://www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/responding-to-suicide-warning-signs-in-the-workplace.
The Role of the Mental Health First Aider (n.d.). MHFA England. https://mhfaengland.org/_entity/sharepointdocumentlocation/ff189432-9a4a-e711-8106-e0071b6670e1/d78574f9-20c3-4dcc-8d8d-85cf5b7ac141?file=Role%20of%20Mental%20Health%20First%20Aider.pdf.