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Suicide Prevention Day 2021: 4 ways to talk to staff about suicide

2021 has been another challenging year for everybody, with COVID-19 introducing more non-work-related stress than ever and the continued impacts of the pandemic, from managing personal finances to your health, have compounded the effects of the pressure for everyone.

The ONS found that in 2021:

  • 1 in 5 (21%) adults experienced some form of depression in Q1 2021, a 19% increase since November 2020.
  • 4 in 10 (43%) women aged 16 to 29 experience depressive symptoms, compared with around 2 in 10 (26%) of men of the same age.

But suicide remains a very concerning issue and something that everyone needs to take seriously, despite the difficulties often associated with talking about this sensitive subject. In this article, we will be looking at why staff members may consider suicide and some basic steps you can implement to help minimise the risk.

Why might people consider suicide?

Your staff may be having suicidal thoughts due to various different – and often very complex – reasons. Risk factors are varied but can include:

  • Complex life events, such as a traumatic childhood.
  • Breakdown of relationships.
  • Increase in fear and anger.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Misuse of drugs or alcohol.
  • Due to living alone or in social isolation during lockdown.
  • Physical health conditions.
  • Ongoing problems with work or money.

How can you support your workers when discussing suicide?

It can be challenging to support your team when they’re facing suicidal thoughts as they may not come to you expressly stating the personal situation they’re going through. Therefore, it’s essential to create a workplace culture that supports workers, whether actively or passively, in seeking out support when they need it most.

1. Provide employees with helpful information

As an employer, it’s vital to provide a clear, easy-to-understand platform of support, guidance and information that employees can access for help and advice, direct them to advisory services or to seek professional help where necessary.

2. Help leaders lead compassionately

Being in HR, you’re the one team that everyone interacts with on a day-to-day basis.

It is often incredibly difficult for anyone to open up about their mental health, but especially so in a professional environment

Therefore, leaders must make themselves as visible as possible to every single member of staff and be seen to be actively encouraging conversations between colleagues and leaders about mental health. This can begin to break down to stigma around any issues your people may be experiencing

3. Build community

Many teams have not met in months, some for even more than a year, so the impact of isolation could be affecting the mental health of your staff. Therefore by building a positive workplace culture, you should ensure you’re maintaining your work-based community.

Companies should do everything they can to facilitate employee networking during this time, including regular team-wide meetings, social gatherings, and even the reintroduction of elements like team-lunches.

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4. Ask for input

Don’t forget to ask your employees what they want or what they need help with. You could run a quick survey or include it into your one-to-one catch-ups to see what support your team needs.

Further resources

For more resources on supporting staff with suicidal thoughts, or if you want to give your staff the contact details of free and confidential support, you can use the following resources: