Suicide – how employers can help

Think, talk, tackle

10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day, an annual awareness event established to raise awareness about suicide across the globe and to work together to prevent it. In some locations it is also World Suicide Prevention Month.

To help those in with suicidal thoughts, where do you start? What do you say? Who do you talk to? How do you make it more than a one-off?

The wonderful Mates in Mind Charity has a range of resources to help the individual, colleagues/family and employer find a path through this most sensitive of subjects.

The numbers (ONS):

  • In the UK, deaths by suicide rose by 11.2% in the UK in 2018, significantly higher than in 2017, due mainly to increases in male suicide; 75% of suicides were in men.
  • Scotland had the highest suicide rate followed by Wales.
  • In the UK, the highest suicide rate is among men aged 45-49. For women, the age group with the highest rate was also 45 to 49 years.
  • The rate of deaths among under 25s has increased in recent years.

Employers can play a critical role in helping to prevent suicides. Clearly, there is a moral case, but there is also a strong business case, which demonstrates that prevention needs to be at the heart of changes to organisational culture.

How the employer can help

Organisations can build a culture of prevention incorporating strategies, tools and support across their employee base, which support their employees' mental health and wellbeing at work.

This, combined with improved awareness and understanding, opportunities for further education around both suicide prevention and mental health and a commitment to improvement  from across the organisation, can all produce a workplace culture geared towards ongoing prevention.

Employers can empower their workforces to have difficult yet important conversations about mental health and suicide by creating an open and inclusive culture. If employees are supported with the awareness and understanding of how and where they can get support, in an environment where they do not feel judged or restricted by stigma, they will feel more able to get the support they need.

A workplace culture where conversations are encouraged, and mental health and wellbeing are being proactively supported and destigmatised by employers, can be crucial in tackling these complex challenges.

It's is important to take a joined-up, holistic approach as both mental ill-health and suicide are highly complex issues, impacted by a number of factors from across individuals lives.

Mates in Mind has developed an employer’s action plan that we fully support, to enable employers to change the way they think, talk and tackle mental health within their organisation, to support the positive mental wellbeing of their employees at work.


General awareness: By improving general awareness about mental ill-health and suicide, organisations can begin to challenge the stigma around the topics. This may include:

  • Displaying awareness posters
  • Making employees aware of the facts around mental ill-health and suicide
  • Making your workforce aware that there is always support available to those who need it.


Start the conversation: Depending on the context of your discussion, there are many ways the conversation can be started in work. This may include:

  • Team meetings
  • Toolbox talks
  • Presentations or briefs
  • Conversations with line-managers.

Discuss the topic using sensitive and inclusive language:

  • Ensure communications are inclusive of those across your workforce, regardless of: gender, culture, religion, race, sexuality, etc
  • Ensure that the language you use is considerate of those who might be impacted by the topic, including: those who have been bereaved buy suicide, or individuals who may need support themselves.

Lead by example: When seeking to drive a meaningful change, it is crucial that those at a director/ manager level within an organisation show that they are actively supporting good mental wellbeing in the context of work. This may include:

  • Discuss mental health and suicide prevention with others within management and leadership roles
  • Attend briefings and talks organised to discuss and tackle the issue
  • Attend managers’ training to equip yourself with the tools and understanding necessary to support individuals within your workforce.


Access to, and signposting available services: By making sure you are clear what benefits and support are available directly to staff or workers in your organisation or elsewhere. This may include:

  • Signposting to internal support: making people aware of your businesses workplace mental health policy
  • Access to Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and individuals within the organisation that are championing this issue
  • Signposting to external support services such as: confidential helplines, resources and organisations.

Training: By attending training, individuals can develop the necessary understanding and skills to help support how they think, talk and promote better mental health. Individuals from across all roles within an organisation can benefit from training such as:

  • General awareness training
  • Manage the conversation training
  • Mental Health First Aid training/awareness training.

Duradiamond Healthcare is an Occupational Health Physician-led provider, serving organisations across the UK and Republic of Ireland. We can help, with expert guidance and advice on policy and implementation. Speak to us today.

Read our article on how you as an individual can make a difference.


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