This year’s World Mental Health Day on Thursday 10th October has a focus on suicide prevention. Organisers, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), decided to use this day to raise awareness because suicide rates have increased dramatically in recent decades.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 800,000 die by suicide every year, and it’s young people that are most affected. For people between the age of 15 and 29 it’s the second most common form of death. The WHO also report that for every person who died by suicide, over 20 others have tried to take their own life.
Suicide prevention – workplace strategies
The burden of suicide is carried by the working-age population, especially those entering the workplace for the first time in their late teens and 20s. Therefore, employers and other employees can have an important role in preventing suicide by providing support in the workplace and raising awareness of mental health issues.
Here we share a few ideas of how you could provide support for those in need:
1. Talk openly about mental health issues
While mental health issues have definitely become more widely discussed in recent years, suicide is still often viewed as a taboo subject. But deaths by suicide are preventable so it’s important to expand everyone’s understanding of mental health problems, and help people get the support they need.
Destigmatising mental health issues can create an environment where people feel confident about asking for support and also offering it if they think a colleague needs help. Everyone can help destigmatise mental health problems by talking openly about this subject, sharing their experience and making it a normal topic of conversation.
2. Raise awareness of workplace mental health support
Whether you work in your company’s HR department, are a line manager or just part of the team, you can help signpost others to the support they need.
Familiarise yourself with any mental health initiatives your employer provides, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), and share links or information with your colleagues internally. If you have personal experience of using an EAP you might also consider talking about how useful has been, showing others how easy it is to get the support they need.
World Mental Health Day is an excellent opportunity to share this information throughout your organisation or department – it gives you a reason to raise awareness without colleagues wondering why.
3. Educate yourself to help recognise mental health problems, including the warning signs of suicide
Many employers offer training for staff on recognising the signs that someone is having a tough time, so why not put yourself forward? Mental health first aid training is offered by a number of external providers, including Vivup, and this will help you get support for colleagues in need.
Being available to listen is often the most important thing you can do, so invite them for a coffee and chance to talk. You can then either offer support by pointing them in the right direction, or if you’re very worried speak to the relevant person within your organisation. Training will help you decide on the best course of action.
Supporting people affected by suicide
As well as supporting colleagues with mental health problems, people also need support when someone close to them takes their own life. Again, the stigma of suicide can make it difficult for them to talk about what has happened, so anything you can do to promote a supportive, open environment will help.
Your employer may already have programmes or resources in place to help people manage grief and the shock of a death by suicide. Find out what’s available and let your colleagues know too. World Mental Health Day is all about raising awareness, by doing so you could get someone the support they need.