11th September 2018

Give workers support to reduce suicide rates, employers are told

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Employers can do more to stop workers taking their own lives, a global organisation has said on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).

In a world where each year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide (one person every 40 seconds), the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) says work can provide a sense of purpose and belonging. But, it says, businesses should make a start to support staff by challenging their own perceptions of suicide.

The organisation suggests employers play an important role in encouraging their employees to:

1. Break bad habits: Consider offering alcohol-cessation programmes. The risk of suicide is eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol.

2. Talk to someone: Offering mental health first aid training helps managers to spot the signs of stress and anxiety, and to signpost staff to support before issues escalate. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can also provide much-needed access to confidential counselling.

3. Exercise: Research by the Department of Health highlights how being physically active can reduce someone’s risk of depression by up to 30 per cent. Encouraging staff to exercise can be through company organised fitness classes or discounted gym membership.

4. Take care of health: Private medical insurance, cash plans, health screening, occupational health are all available to provide support for employees’ physical health, which can also support their mental health.

According to the organisation: “None of this will be effective though, unless employees know it is available. So, it’s important to target messages to different segments of a workforce. We know the link between men misusing alcohol and risk of suicide, for example, so tailoring communication about this and the support available to this group is vital.

“Understanding the pressures different groups and individuals are under can help to ensure that support and communication is tailored.”

Brett Hill, managing director, The Health Insurance Group said: “In conjunction with the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day ‘working together’, businesses need to work with their employees, management and healthcare advisers to ensure that they are doing everything to help prevent suicide.

“We believe the first step is for businesses to challenge their perception of suicide – who it can affect and why. Increased understanding can ensure suitable measures can be put in place to prevent the worst from happening.

“From providing physical and mental health initiatives, to offering group protection that can support families affected by suicide, there is a wealth of support available to help employers play a crucial role in prevention and provide ongoing support.”