Steps Your Workplace Can Take Today to Prevent Suicide
Suicide is a complicated phenomenon that is influenced by a number of interconnected life factors, such as personal attributes, environmental circumstances, and availability of lethal means. Interesting and fulfilling work is good for mental health, but a bad work environment or stressors related to your job can cause issues with your physical and mental well-being. Employers and others in positions of authority in the workplace should implement strategies to support employees’ good mental health and have a plan in place for helping employees who are struggling with mental illness or who may be at risk of suicide.
The Workplace as an Education, Prevention, and Intervention Centre
Employees spend a lot of time at work, and coworkers and managers frequently observe significant changes in thoughts or behaviors that could be signs of an increased risk of suicide. While many workplaces are working to improve staff member’s mental health and well-being, they are still hesitant to think about and incorporate suicide prevention in their programs.
The World Health Organization offers information for identifying and assisting employees at risk for suicide.
Organizational Prevention Strategies
1. Foster social inclusion and a respectful work environment
In order to satisfy employees’ needs for belongingness and to make them feel a part of the workplace community, social connectivity is crucial. Fostering social connections is crucial for all employees, but it will become more crucial as more people telework or work alone as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving technological advancements. Therefore, inclusion ought to be a key element of a program to prevent workplace suicide.
Organizations can foster a sense of connectedness by establishing mentoring programs and encouraging team-based work projects that allow employees to share ideas and collaborate to reach goals. Incivility and bullying are on the rise within workplaces. Such deviant behaviors not only degrade social bonds but also isolate employees at work .
2. Identify employees who may be at risk.
Managers and HR professionals are crucial gatekeepers for identifying employees who are suicidally predisposed and supporting those who require assistance. In addition to factors specific to the workplace, earlier research has identified the following as suicide risk factors:
- health conditions such as mental illness, alcohol, and substance abuse disorders, as well as major physical illnesses;
- negative life events including unemployment, job loss, and loss of key relationships;
- a personal history related to suicide such as a family history of suicide deaths, previous suicide attempts, and a history of trauma or abuse; and
Despite this difficulty, it’s crucial for managers to be aware of these aspects so they can give employees access to resources and adequate social support, even when they haven’t explicitly expressed suicidal thoughts. For instance, when companies restructure or make layoffs, this causes changes in the employment status of the affected employees which may lead to suicidal ideation or actions. Access to mental health resources and medical care would thus be a crucial part of any organizational change.
3. Create a plan to take action.
Being aware of an employee’s need is not sufficient on its own. Managers and HR professionals must be ready to assist employees in seeking assistance. This preparation entails educating managers about mental health issues, developing techniques for having difficult conversations, and creating a crisis response plan. Organizations should create a decision-making flowchart that specifies who to contact and when in order to act quickly and appropriately in these circumstances. Additionally, managers should compile a list of available resources and make it accessible to staff members. This list should include the phone numbers for local mental health providers, EAPs, and community resources like support groups and treatment plans.
Regular check-ins with staff members are important for managers to assess their wellbeing and hear any concerns without passing judgment. These discussions give managers the chance to remind staff members that they are supported and cared for at work as well as to inform them of the resources that are available. Although managers are frequently crucial gatekeepers who can keep an eye on changes in employees’ behaviors, their main responsibility is to give employees access to information and resources for seeking assistance; managers are not expected to offer advice or find solutions to their staff members’ problems. It’s crucial to uphold this boundary in order to safeguard the manager’s wellbeing as well.
The number of suicide deaths is rising. Increased stress, mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, attempts, and deaths from suicide were all made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has aided in increasing awareness of these problems and proving to business leaders the necessity of including suicide prevention in health and safety plans and regulations. Workplaces are essential in preventing suicide because they can serve as effective suicide prevention sites and because factors related to the workplace are linked to suicide.
Befrienders Kenya is a charitable organization focusing on suicide prevention by offering FREE emotional support to those who may be in distress.