The Elephant in the Room: Mental Health – Suicide


The content of today’s blog is heavy reading. If you are affected by any of the issues raised by today’s blog, please seek support and speak to someone immediately. Contact details are in the box at the end of this blog.

There are a lot of myths which surround suicide, and it is a topic very few people want to talk about. However, according to the world health organisation, there have been 392,175* completed suicides across the world this year.

The impact of suicide on your workplace may be direct i.e. someone attempting or completing suicide at work or indirect such as a colleague who completes suicide outside of work, or a family / friend of an colleague who attempts / completes suicide.

No two situations are the same and, as an employer, you need a plan! A plan which you hopefully never need to use, but being aware of the possibility and knowing how you will support those who need support is essential.

Although not everyone who is depressed will attempt suicide, and not everyone to attempts suicide will be depressed, depression is a major risk factor for suicide. As an employer or Mental Health First Aider, it is important that you consider this risk and address it, if appropriate to do so. Ensuring that you listen to and support any employees who appear, or admit to being, depressed is important.

The biggest myth is that if someone is suicidal, there is nothing to can do or say to make them change their mind. This is just not the case. When a person is in suicidal crisis, it is based on unclear thinking at a certain point in time. It is usually seen as a way of dealing with a problem and they can’t see any other alternatives. They need the right help to explore alternative solutions and support through a suicidal crisis until they are thinking more clearly.

What are you looking for?

You need to assess the situation quickly and carefully. Warning signs may include an expression of intent to hurt or kill themselves, someone looking for ways to kill themselves, someone who is talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, reckless behaviour, hopelessness, feelings of being trapped, increased alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from other, anxiety, loss of reason to live, putting affairs in order. As with all mental health issues, each individual will behaviour in their own way and may exhibit more than one or none of these indicators. They may also exhibit these behaviours and suicide may never have crossed their mind.

Talking to someone, not judging them, asking about their suicidal thoughts – and yes you can do this – are all good ways to help you assess the situation. You may need to call the police or paramedics who will have people trained to assist.

When dealing with a suicidal crisis, it is important that you remain safe. Don’t do anything which endangers yourself or others around you. Don’t leave the person alone. Try to ensure that there is no ready access to a way to end their life.

Encourage the person to talk:

  • Listen without judging and leave your own preconceptions to one side
  • Be polite and respectful of how the person is feeling
  • Don’t deny the person’s feelings – it is how they feel. It is their reality, their perception.
  • Don’t try to give advice – unless of course you are qualified to do so‼
  • Reassure them that help is available and that other options are available

No employer ever wants to have to deal with the realities of poor mental health or suicide, but the number of people reporting poor mental health is increasing. It has become more acceptable to talk about mental health and people are generally more accepting of poor mental health. Like many aspects of our lives, covid has sped up a process which had already started. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in more people experiencing mental health issues for the first time.

* According to at 1pm on 14th May 2021

If you need to talk to someone about the issues raised by today’s blog, the following are available to you:

Samaritans – 116 123

CALM – 0800 585858

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