September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day; an annual global event which aims to raise awareness about suicide and prevent loss of life. And it’s important that employers are aware, because mental health issues are on the rise among UK workers.
Reports suggest that there hasn’t been the increase in suicide rates that might naturally have been expected in the wake of the pandemic. But any suicide is an unacceptable and reverberating loss of life. And the pandemic isn’t over, as Professor Louis Appleby says in The BMJ;
“Recovery can be a dangerous time—as any clinician can tell you—as restrictions are lifted and we look at our lives in a new way. We need to ensure support for anyone lonely or mentally ill, in turmoil or financial hardship. We need to rediscover the values that unite us and the benefits of mutual support. We need to reassure ourselves that there is a way out of this crisis and a better, fairer, more compassionate society at the end of it.”
It's great advice – for society at large and for workplaces too, particularly as one in seven workers who have been affected by Covid will go on to experience mental health troubles.
Talking - and listening - about suicide
The are many reasons that someone might feel suicidal. Or there might not be an explicable reason at all. Our nursing team highlights the importance for leaders to be proactive and talk openly with staff to get to the bottom of mental health issues, such as suicidal ideation:
Normalising mental health challenges is a great way to bring hidden troubles into the light before they reach crisis point. But what can you do if someone is thinking about suicide?
If it’s an emergency, and you fear they’re at risk of taking their own life:
- Remove anything they could use to harm themselves
- Stay with them
- Get emergency help
Talk with them. Even if they’re not yet ready to open up, it lets them know that you care.
- Mind offers a useful checklist for supporting someone who feels suicidal.
- The Samaritans ‘SHUSH’ listening tips are designed to help you engage with someone who is struggling to open up.
- If the person isn’t ready to talk to you, they may feel more comfortable with a stranger. The NHS has a great list of phone and text services for help for suicidal thoughts.
Signpost them. It may seem simple but posting the number for support services around your workplace and in communications with remote workers could save a life. Here are some to share:
Call 116 123
|For people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967
|Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page
Text "SHOUT" to 85258
Workplace services for people who are struggling
Training Mental Health First Aiders within your organisation and publicising them to staff is a great step. Besides ensuring there are people in your workforce who can spot the signs of poor mental health in colleagues, it offers employees someone approachable to talk to in confidence, who isn’t necessarily their manager or other authority figure.
You might consider a nurse-led absence support service such as FirstCare’s. In 2020, we potentially saved someone’s life more than once every day. 26% of those life-threatening ‘Code Red’ calls were due to mental health crises. And around half of them came outside of office hours. Having access to human support 24/7 is a great reassurance to our members, and there’s no cap on call times. Our nurses won’t share the nature of the call with the member’s employer unless they consent. And we’re able to make referrals to support services without delay – ranging from GPs and counselling, to 999 in extreme cases.
Want to learn more?
There are two webinars coming up in September, aimed at employers who want to support the mental health of their employees in the wake of the Covid pandemic:
Wednesday 22nd September 2021, 12-1pm
FirstCare’s webinar will look at ways for employers to identify and support the varying pressures that have affected employees during the pandemic and as we enter the ‘new world of work’.
Featuring an expert panel, led by Dean Russell MP – Co-Chair of the Mental Health All Parliamentary Group.
Thursday 23rd September 2021, 2-3pm
HealthHero’s webinar will look at ways for employers to fulfil their duty of care to staff, destigmatise mental health issues, and implement a critical incident management plan.
Featuring an expert panel from the Validium EAP team.