Spotting The Signs

Samaritans Awareness Day is held on 24th July each year.  It is an opportunity for the organisation to highlight the amazing services they provide to help people in dire need and to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

The sad truth is that suicide remains a significant issue in the UK, with suicide facts and figures from the Samaritans and Office for National Statistics showing that 6,000 people a year in the UK and Republic of Ireland take their own lives.

Suicide rates are most elevated in middle-aged men from lower socio-economic groups(45-54),  but worryingly there has been a 93.8% increase in females under 25 taking their own lives, since 2012.

Loneliness, grieving the death of a loved one, financial worries, and declining health are common reasons for someone to experience heightened anxiety and stress. However strained mental health and wellbeing can lead to depressive disorder and anxiety disorder and, for some people, to suicidal thoughts.

Warning signs that someone is struggling can manifest as follows:

  • Deteriorating job performance
  • Withdrawal from work colleagues
  • Significant mood changes
  • Deteriorating personal appearance
  • Obsessions over end-of-life matters, such as funeral planning, wills, and life insurance beneficiaries
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Making social media posts about hopelessness or death
  • Conversing about not being there in the future
  • Making statements such as ‘no-one would miss me,’ ‘life is meaningless,’ ‘I feel trapped,’ or ‘you’d be better off without me.’

What can my business do to help?

It goes without saying that employers have a duty of care towards their employees who are suffering mental health problems. It is often unclear to others when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, so normalising mental health problems by openly offering relevant help and support within the workplace is one of the best ways to try and prevent suicide.

Even if the source of suicidal thoughts do not stem from the work environment there are steps businesses can take to help, according to the TUC these include:

  • Promoting good mental health and destigmatising mental health problems
  • Reducing stress at work
  • Preventing and taking action against bullying and harrassment
  • Extending support and psychological health services
  • Educating and training managers and other key staff

Businesses can also get better equipped to spot an employee who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts by watching out for the warning signs mentioned above. Colleagues can help by empathetically making them aware of what they have noticed, which can be the first step in assisting employees in finding professional help.

There is a false myth that suicidal employees cannot be helped or persuaded to change their minds. This is certainly not the case, although it is very important to approach the topic sensitively and respectfully.

As a manager, appropriate action and help could include:

  • Expressing compassion and caring for the employee on a personal level
  • Allowing the employee to talk openly and in-depth about their feelings
  • Addressing work-related problems, stress, anxiety, or bullying
  • Listening to, but not prying into, personal problems
  • Connecting the individual with professional suicide prevention and emotional support, such as that offered by the Samaritans
  • Notifying your HR department, your manager, or emergency services, if you consider the situation urgent
  • Connecting the person with an employee support program

Managers should avoid:

  • Debating whether suicide or the employee’s feelings are wrong or right
  • Leaving the employee alone if the situation is critical
  • Trying to solve the employee’s personal problems
  • Minimising the severity of the employee’s problems

The Samaritans support managers and workplaces with a range of programmes and advice offered through their Wellbeing in the Workplace eLearning Tool and workplace training courses.

Your Employee Wellbeing work with businesses to create tailored wellbeing programmes to help support the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce. 

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