Fear of judgement stops many people from talking about their mental health, but employers have the power to change that, says Harry Corin
Workplaces have an undeniable role to play in helping to prevent suicide. There is a complex interplay of reasons why we don't speak about suicide as a society and in our workplaces, yet talking about it is the single biggest prevention tool. We need employers to challenge the myths and taboo that surrounds suicide and take direct action to support their teams.
Many people experiencing a suicide crisis are in workplaces day in, day out. Data shows as many as 650 suicides in the UK each year could be work-related – this is approximately 10% of all suicides.
According to The Employee Mental Health & Remote Working Report by Wildgoose, two-thirds of UK hospitality workers stated that their mental health was worse following the pandemic than it was at its height. A staggering 100% of respondents stated that they didn't receive enough mental health support from their employers. Equipping teams with the skills to better support their own mental health and support those around them can act as preventative step and will have a positive ripple effect across the business.
Hospitality faces a unique set of challenges, but we can't lose sight of our people. It's a complex picture, especially with the sector facing pressure when it comes to retention and costs. However, Deloitte analysis showed that the costs to employers of poor mental health from absenteeism, presenteeism and labour turnover in 2020-2021 increased by 25%, compared to 2019 figures.
New research from MHFA England shows that 33% of employees would speak to their manager if they were experiencing poor mental health but only 19% would discuss having suicidal thoughts. The research found that the top reasons preventing people discussing suicidal thoughts were: employees did not feel comfortable (61%), they were worried it would impact their job (36%) or that they would be judged (35%).
This September marks World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September). For employers, this offers an opportunity to act.
Harry Corin is a Mental Health First Aid England ambassador and instructor member who runs his own mental health training and consultancy business, Corin & Co
Photo: Harry Corin at ‘The last photo' on London's South Bank, a campaign by the Campaign Against Living Miserably that displayed 50 smiling portraits of people who took their own lives
Four ways to help support suicide prevention in your workplace
Senior leadership backing
We need our leaders to understand the role they can play in helping to prevent suicide. Culture change starts at the top and senior people must lead from the front to tackle stigma and implement suicide prevention strategies.
Suicide prevention as part of your wellbeing strategy
Many employers will already have wellbeing strategies in place, but how much of a focus is given to suicide prevention, intervention and post-intervention? Suicide prevention can be layered into an existing wellbeing strategy to ensure you're taking a whole-organisation approach to supporting poor mental health, those experiencing suicidal thoughts and those impacted by suicide.
As you layer a suicide prevention strategy into your wider wellbeing policies, one part of the offer could include suicide first-aid training. It provides people with a greater understanding of suicide, including how to spot the signs of someone who may be thinking about suicide and the confidence to intervene and help create a suicide safety plan. Through appropriate training, employees will gain the confidence and skills to have potentially life-saving conversations.
Start a conversation
Suicide is preventable through education and intervention. Through increased knowledge people can gain the confidence to ask challenging but life-saving questions about suicide. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England has produced a new free resource that helps people support someone experiencing suicide thoughts or behaviour. You could also explore podcasts, charity partnerships, fundraising efforts or storytelling to help challenge the taboo of talking about suicide. MHFA England also offers consultancy and training to help employers develop and implement plans to support those having thoughts of suicide and those impacted by suicide.
**For more information visit https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/campaigns/world-suicide-prevention-day-2023/
If someone is at immediate risk of attempting suicide, dial 999. If someone is having thoughts of suicide encourage them to call Samaritans on 116 123
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