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How workplaces can support employees and spot signs of suicidal thoughts

Between January and March of this year there were 1262 deaths by suicide[1]. Whilst it is not known what impact the pandemic will have on these figures, experts believe it is likely that we will see an increase both in rates of suicide and mental ill health. 

The reasons someone takes their own life are complex; however, there are some known risk factors[2] including difficulties accessing or receiving care, relationship breakdown and financial loss. Many of these may have been exacerbated in recent months and people who are facing redundancy or have experienced bereavement may be particularly vulnerable. 

As always a workplace culture that normalises mental health, where it is okay to talk about having a bad day or where managers trained in mental health awareness routinely check out how staff are doing from a personal and professional perspective is one that lays the groundwork for those more sensitive issues. 

Regularly communicating the different places people can receive support is essential, and should include information on a range of difficulties people might be facing including financial, addiction, abuse and bereavement as well as details of mental health and suicide support services. Employers can also develop tailored suicide awareness guidance and arrange for online training, awareness sessions[3] or invite guest speakers with lived experience to share their stories. 

Finally, it is important to ensure that anything you do is part of your overall mental health and wellbeing plan and has senior leaders’ support, managers’ understanding and employee involvement. A collective approach promotes a powerful message that everyone has responsibility for their own and each other’s wellbeing. 

Abigail Hirshman
Workplace Programme Director
Charlie Waller Trust

[1] ONS Statistics Provisional Data Jan-Apr 2020
[2] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/suicide
[3] MerseyCare NHS Trust Suicide Awareness Online 


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Michael Frohlich , EMEA CEO and Global Transformation Lead, Weber Shandwick