Workplace strategies for preventing suicide
- Date posted
- 01 September 2023
- Marcus Boocock
- Estimated reading time
- 3 minute read
According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year. It is the fourth leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29.
World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September raises awareness of this important public health issue and showcase that suicides are preventable.
To mark the day, IOSH is sharing strategies for preventing suicide which are relevant to workplace.
Many ways of preventing suicide relate to work – and there are many creative ways of doing so. For example, introducing barbers at work has become a common way of allowing people to talk openly about any issues they are experiencing, including mental health problems.
But what else can businesses do? Dr Karen Michell, IOSH’s Research Programme Lead (Occupational Health) says strategies which can be introduced include:
- change the culture at work – decrease the stigma attached to mental health issues and talk about it in the workplace
- ask colleagues if they are okay
- introduce interventions, such as increased awareness of suicide and suicidal ideation to lay workers, train line managers and employees on how to identify the signs and offer access to support services that can intervene and support the individual
- set up a workplace champion, who can confidently be approached for support on mental health issues
- ensure understanding of high-risk groups – such as construction workers, nurses, doctors, police, firefighters
- integrate strategies into existing mental health strategies in the workplace
- ensure post-ideation intervention and follow up
- manage issues at work that lead to suicide and ideation – eg stress, poor control over psychosocial stressors
- train mental health first aiders at work.
Karen has compiled a host of helpful information available from trusted organisations. Below are some of the serious warning signs, identified by the National Institute of Mental Health, that someone may be at immediate risk/at risk:
- talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
- withdrawing from family and friends
- taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
- displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
- making a plan or looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online
- talking about feeling great guilt or shame
- acting anxious or agitated.
If you do notice any of the above warning signs, Heads Up has advice on what to do, including:
- start a conversation, for example ‘you haven’t seemed yourself lately and I’m worried about you’
- ask if they are thinking of suicide, to help you understand how they’re feeling
- if you feel out of your depth, consider asking the person if you can contact someone else who could help, for example a colleague trained in suicide first aid, or go with the person to call a crisis line.
Have a list of good services to which a worker can be referred.
World Suicide Prevention Day is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, which is encouraging people everywhere to become a beacon of light to those in pain.
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Last updated: 31 January 2024
Health and wellbeing