Suicide is a difficult topic, but it’s a subject that needs to be talked about as it could make a world of difference to your employees who may be silently struggling—and what better time than Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to get the conversation started?
Statistics show that 9% of employees in the UK are thinking about self-harm or suicide, with employees having financial struggles being twice as likely to have similar thoughts.
Even though the figures are alarming, there’s still hope because talking about suicide can significantly help destigmatise the subject and help those who are going through difficult times. Providing employees who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm a way to voice their struggles can assist them with getting the help they need.
Learning how to start empathetic conversations between employers and employees can be the key to destigmatising, addressing, and possibly preventing suicide.
how to talk about suicide at work
A lot of employers hesitate to talk about suicide because they’re unsure about how to approach the conversation, fearing that they’ll make things worse by saying the wrong things.
Employers need to understand that suicide or mental health problems don’t escalate by simply starting a conversation. The Mayo Clinic, for instance, states that communication increases the chances of a person seeking help. They go on to say that talking about suicide or self-harm at work could save the life of an employee or give them the tools they need to help a loved one who’s having suicidal thoughts.
When you do start up a conversation there are some best practices to keep in mind. They’ll help you get the most out of your conversation and create a better space to openly talk about mental health and suicide:
- Ask open-ended questions that aren’t limited to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers
- Give your employee adequate time to respond without making them feel rushed
- Don’t disregard anyone’s feelings and take what they’re saying seriously
- Avoid blaming the person for their feelings and be supportive
how not to talk about suicide
There are so many ways of talking about suicide, self-harm, or mental health in a way that helps someone through their struggles or can help them to feel less alone. Similarly, there are also ways that you shouldn’t talk about suicide that could reinforce stigma and make it more difficult for someone to talk about their feelings.
It’s recommended, for example, not to use the phrase “committed suicide”. This comes from before 1961 when England and Wales considered suicide to be illegal and people could be prosecuted for attempted suicide.
Today, this is no longer the case and people cannot be criminally prosecuted. But the phrase “committed suicide” still carries a stigma and it has been replaced by phrases like “death by suicide”, “taken their own life”, or “suicide attempt” since they are more neutral.
how to keep an eye out for risk factors
During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, you’ll find many resources and events targetting suicide and mental health awareness and prevention. One of the key things that employers can learn about is the risk factors.
Armed with this information, employers and even employees can pay more attention to those who are more at risk of suicide, self-harm, or struggle with their mental health.
Here’s a list of things that could increase a person’s risk of suicide.
- Having previously attempted suicide
- Having a substance abuse problem
- Having thoughts of suicide
- Having an underlying psychiatric disorder
- Having a family history of mental health issues
- Having medical condition/s that could lead to depression or suicidal thoughts
- Experiencing stressful situations, such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems, military service, break-up, etc.
- Identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community while living with an unsupportive family or under hostile conditions
final thoughts on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month from kinhub
During September, many organisations ramp up their efforts to spread awareness about mental health and suicide to create a supportive workplace. Unfortunately, most of these companies fail to continue them beyond Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Employers need to understand that employee mental health support cannot be restricted to a single week or month. Many resources can help organisations implement long-term solutions where mental health is an ongoing goal rather than a nice-to-have initiative that’s highlighted on social media or included in a company newsletter.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues or thoughts of suicide, the below organisations can help:
W: https://www.samaritans.org/ | T: 116 123
W: https://www.spuk.org.uk/national-suicide-prevention-helpline-uk/ | T: 0800 689 5652
W: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/ | T: 0800 068 4141