How your workplace can help prevent suicide

This R U OK? Day 10 September, leading workplace mental health EAP provider AccessEAP, is encouraging businesses to consider what role they can play in suicide prevention. Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP, says: “As a place of social connection and a source of structure and purpose for employees, workplaces have a unique role to play in starting the conversation and making sure the conversation is continuous. This is particularly relevant when so many people are feeling isolated and still working from home.

R U OK? Day allows businesses to become involved in addressing better mental health and suicide prevention, building trust between employer and employees alike. Leaders have the opportunity to de-stigmatise conversations on mental health in the workplace, putting in place policies and injecting a culture that is motivated by compassion towards any member of the team.

With mental health conditions present in 43% of suicides, organisations need processes to manage mental health and aim towards eliminating the fear of disclosure. To ensure suicide prevention is a part of safety culture in the workplace, employers can encourage workforces to come together, to
offer support and connect with those experiencing difficulty or emotional pain. Suicide is preventable and includes everyone being involved and checking on how others are coping not once but every day.

Run an R U OK? day session
Leaders and supervisors often feel anxious to have conversations with team members about potential mental health concerns, so it’s important to provide them with training. Host a day session where staff members can be informed about the signs that someone may be at risk and the steps to
deal with it. This will help break down the stigma around the topic and create a culture of safety. Managers can learn how to offer support; they do not need to solve the problem.

Establish a Circle of Support

A Circle of Support doesn’t have to be large but could include family, friends or colleagues who provide friendship and reassurance to a person who needs it. Many organisations are introducing peer support, where employees learn how to have conversations about mental health and how to help. Encourage activities where staff members are taught to open up and listen to each other, breaking down barriers. If people share personal experiences, it is a powerful way of enabling others to share.

Don’t make assumptions – Ask!

Each person’s background is unique, so it’s important not to assume anything about how employees are coping. Leaders should adapt their communication to meet team members’ individual needs. When discussing difficult topics, such as mental health and suicide, it can’t be a one size fits all approach, but rather a conversation that encourages asking questions to allow for understanding between all staff members. Culture informs communications, so employers should facilitate a respectful and curious discussion about this in the workplace.

The main priority for businesses is to ensure an environment is created for any member of staff to feel comfortable to talk about any issues they may be facing. “This R U OK? Day offers an opportunity for businesses to evaluate their approach to suicide prevention in line with the ongoing changes to everyday life in 2020 and make permanent additions to HR and business policies that address this concerning trend as we move through COVID-19 and beyond.