An employer's guide to suicide prevention in the workplace

August 2022
Suicide Prevention
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In the approach to World Suicide Prevention Day, now seemed like an appropriate time to write about the difficult and taboo topic of suicide and how employers can help prevent cases of suicide among their employees.

World Suicide Prevention Day occurs on 10 September every year. It is an opportunity for organisations and communities around the world to join forces and raise awareness of how we can all work together to help reduce the numbers of people who die by suicide.

Between 5,500 and 6,000 people in Britain end their own lives; more than three times the number who die on our roads.

Suicide is preventable

The thing that organisations like the Samaritans understand is that suicide is in fact preventable, and not inevitable.
Unfortunately, as the Samaritans say, "not being okay is still widely stigmatised".
Often, suicides occur as impulsive moments of crisis, and are usually connected with significant life events. For example, they might follow the breakdown of a relationship, financial difficulties, people struggling with isolation and extreme loneliness, or work pressures.

Suicide can, of course, also be linked to pre-existing mental health conditions.

What should organisations do to help prevent suicide among their employees?

With so many influencing factors, and the very fact that people will fear being stigmatised by voicing their worries and concerns, it is difficult to identify employees who may be at risk of dying by suicide.

That said, employers have a legal duty to take care of employees and provide a safe working environment. There is also a firm moral duty on employers to take care of people because they are in a unique position to support wellbeing and good mental health.

By managing the risks related to workplace stress and preventing unfair treatment, such as bullying and harassment, businesses and organisations can help to create a mentally healthy workplace. 

This alone can help to address some of the potential risks associated with suicide. So, it's important that all employers play their part in creating an open and caring environment where people can seek help if they are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.

By successfully creating a healthy work environment it is more likely that workers will know their concerns will be listened to with empathy and understanding. 
This can go a long way towards helping people to take the first step in accessing support services and securing the help they need.

Everyone’s experience of suicidal feelings is unique to them

In their guidance notes, Mind explains that anyone who experiences suicidal thoughts have feelings that are unique to them. 
There's a long list of both work and non-work related events and difficulties that can lead to people thinking about suicide, including:

  • Mental health issues
  • Bullying or discrimination
  • The end of a relationship
  • Adjusting to a big change, such as retirement or redundancy
  • Doubts about your sexual or gender identity
  • Long-term physical pain or illness.

Awareness of the potential risk factors for suicide – and understanding that people are affected by circumstances and events inside and outside work – can help organisations create a healthy culture and put support systems in place to help those employees who may be facing difficult issues.

5 ways to create a supporting and positive culture for mental health

1. Engender a compassionate culture
One of the most important things employers can do to help prevent suicide is to engender a compassionate culture. This should harness openness that truly supports staff to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Achieving this will help to tackle the taboo surrounding mental health and suicide.

2. Put the right support in place
Remember that everyone’s experience of mental health will be unique to them. Those suffering poor mental health can still thrive at work, especially if the right adjustments are made and the necessary support is in place and readily accessible.

3. Manage pressure and reducing stress
Wherever possible, employers and management teams should manage pressure and reduce stress to support the mental health of their workforce.

Read more: 5 practical, proactive ways to support your employees' mental health

4. Ensure people managers have the right skills and support
Naturally, good communication and people management skills can go a long way to reducing stress and mental ill health among employees. Essentially, your people managers should be competent and confident in both initiating and having sensitive and supportive conversations with their teams. It’s also vital that they know where they and their teams can access further help and support.

With the right people skilled in detecting the warning signs of mental health issues, this will help key managers recognise and detect problems early. In turn, this should allow them to step in and talk to individuals and refer them for expert help where needed.

5. Tread carefully with unfair treatment, disciplinary and dismissal procedures
Unfair treatment at work, such as bullying, harassment or discrimination, can have a devastating impact on people psychologically. So, it's important for employers to develop cultures where unfair treatment is widely known to be unacceptable.

Naturally, disciplinary processes can be hugely stressful, and support needs to be provided by someone who is impartial and not involved in the process.
Concern for the health and welfare of anyone involved in a disciplinary, dismissal or redundancy procedure should be a priority at every stage, and suspension should always be a last resort.

LEBC are here to help you help your employees

We provide a complete Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) so that you can deliver valuable employee benefits to your staff. 

Because we understand that one size doesn't fit all, we start by listening to you and understanding your requirements. This means your EAP is specifically set up and designed to help your employees deal with personal problems that could affect their work performance, health and wellbeing. 

By working in partnership with you we're able to achieve the best balance between cost, service and benefits to deliver an effective healthcare and wellbeing strategy and a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Get in touch

Creating a culture with a happy and healthy workforce is key to preventing suicide in the workplace. LEBC’s healthcare and wellbeing solutions help you to foster a positive and proactive approach to supporting workers' mental and physical health. And our pension support service provides your employees with valuable and independent guidance, reassurance and answers when you can’t with what is often their most valuable and complicated benefit – their workplace pension.

To find out more about the entire range of healthcare, pension management and wellbeing strategies we offer, get in touch. Email or call us on 0800 055 6585.

Further resources

Here are a few additional sources for information and advice:

  • Hub of Hope provides a good starting point to search for support services by local area
  • Samaritans – Every year, the Samaritans answer more than 5 million calls for help through their unique 24-hour listening service, email, letter, face-to-face and through their Welsh language service. Call free on 116 123.
  • Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
    • Mind Infoline – 0300 123 3393 or email
    • Mind’s Legal Advice Service – 0300 466 6463,
  • Papyrus provide confidential support and advice to children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, and anyone concerned about a young person, through its helpline, HOPELINEUK – call 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday 9am to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm to 10pm), email, or text 07860 039967.
  • Shout is a free 24/7 crisis text service – for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. If someone needs immediate help, they can text ‘Shout’ to 85258.
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