World Suicide Prevention Day – What Can Employers Do For You?

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Photo Credits - Dan Meyers via Unsplash

World Suicide Prevention Day was commemorated on 10 September 2023. As a triennial theme for the years 2021 to 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) established focuses on “Creating Hope Through Action”. 

[Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide)

According to the WHO, suicide has become a major public health challenge – affecting around 700,000 people globally every year. This challenge has led to significant social, economic and emotional consequences. 

World Suicide Prevention Day’s triennial theme acts as a reminder that there is always an alternative to suicide and that there are things that we can do to prevent it. Further, it highlights that we can take proactive measures to encourage hope and strengthen prevention. 

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World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was established in 2003 by the WHO in partnership with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). Every year on 10 September they aim to highlight the issue of suicide and raise awareness to reduce the stigma surrounding it. Overall, the message is a reminder that suicide is always preventable. 

The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021 to 2023, urges us to take action and offer alternatives to suicide. Our actions can bring hope and support to those in need, emphasising that even small gestures matter.

This theme reinforces the urgency of suicide prevention as a top public health priority. The WHO continues to partner with countries to reduce suicide rates and save lives.

Workplace Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a significant concern, impacting a large portion of the population. It’s estimated by Mind that around one in five people will experience thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives, and globally, according to the WHO, it is responsible for one out of every 100 deaths. Of particular note is the fact that it is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 50.

Discussing and addressing suicide can be complex, especially in the context of the workplace. Many employers and managers may feel unsure about how to handle this issue. However, the workplace has the potential to be a platform for supporting mental well-being. 

It’s alarming to note that a significant 80% of all suicides occur among people of working age, emphasising the importance of implementing measures for prevention and intervention in this environment. Additionally, certain industries, particularly those with a higher proportion of male employees, face a greater risk of suicide, highlighting the need for proactive intervention.

Suicidal thoughts can be triggered by various factors, including mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as job-related stressors such as job insecurity and bullying. As an employer, taking steps to reduce workplace stressors and address issues like bullying can play a pivotal role in lowering the risk of suicide among your employees.

World Suicide Prevention Day: What Can Employers Do For You?

Within employment law, employers have a duty of care over their employees. What this entails in this context is that employers have the responsibility to ensure a healthy workplace environment to support the well-being of their employees. Understanding the mental health needs of employees is included. 

To promote suicide prevention and mental well-being at work, leaders and employers can take several practical steps:

  • Lead by Example

Leaders should openly discuss mental health and suicide prevention, setting a safe and open tone for conversations.

  • Foster Psychological Safety

Create a workplace culture that reduces stigma around mental health. Encourage employees to seek help and practice active listening.

  • Emphasise Self-Care

Encourage employees to take regular breaks, get outdoors, exercise, engage in relaxation activities like reading or taking a bath, and maintain social connections.

  • Support from Peers

Establish peer support systems, like buddy programmes and team meetings with a social element, to build a sense of community and support.

  • Personalised Assistance

Check in with employees individually, especially if they have existing mental health concerns, and offer tailored support.

  • Mental Health First Aiders

Appoint Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) who can provide confidential support and guide employees to resources.

  • Training and Development

Invest in training programmes, including How to Talk About Suicide, Mental Health Awareness, Resilience Training, and others for both staff and managers.

  • Resource Recommendations

Share information about relevant charities and books on workplace well-being and mental health support.

  • Post-Incident Help

Offer support following workplace incidents and provide access to assistance through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), MHFAs, or counselling. Ensure other employees aren’t facing similar pressures.

  • Connect with Remote Workers

Stay in touch with remote employees to combat isolation. Promote healthy remote work practices and share resources to support their well-being.

READ: Goldman Sachs Faces £1m Lawsuit After Reports of Workplace Bullying Surfaces

Further Resources on Suicide Prevention

If you or anyone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the helplines below:

  • Samaritans

Call 116 123

Email jo@samaritans.org

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5 pm to midnight

Webchat

  • Papyrus

Call 0800 068 41 41

Text 07860 039967

Email pat@papyrus-uk.org 

  • Childline

For children and young people under 19

Call 0800 1111

  • SOS Silence of Suicide

Call 0300 1020 505

Email support@sossilenceofsuicide.org

  • Shout Crisis Text Line

Text “SHOUT” to 85258

  • YoungMind Crisis Messenger

Text “YM” to 85258

  • Call 111

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