Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the Mental Health of their employees, but there is still much work to be done.

Employers have the power to impact and influence the way their employers are feeling and should make a conscious effort to do so, as staff are the most valuable asset that any company has. Suicide still remains a preventable cause of death but numbers are high and continue to grow.

Workplace culture has a huge part to play in the mental health of employees, where a sense of belonging and social support can improve mental health and provide a network of support for those suffering suicidal thoughts, in silence.

Nurturing this open culture in any organisation will not only promote wellbeing, integrity and honesty, it can encourage employer loyalty and lower staff turnover rates.

So what can you do as an employer to help your employees?

As part of an overall workplace psychological health and safety strategy, companies should consider the following.

Get to know your employees and their history, taking into account individual risk factors. 
While suicide cannot always be prevented, an understanding of factors that may increase risk is helpful. The following factors can increase an individual’s risk of suicide:

  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Suicide by someone close
  • Problematic substance use
  • Mental illnesses such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, etc.
  • Access to lethal drugs, weapons or other means
  • Stigma that discourages employees from asking for help
  • Feelings of isolation due to actual or perceived discrimination related to race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, etc

Implement a comprehensive Psychological Health and Safety Management System to help improve overall workplace culture and resolve issues more effectively.
Eliminate stigma related to mental health issues so that all employees feel safe asking for help.
Develop an inclusive workplace environment where diversity is welcomed, supported and protected for all employees.
Avoid marginalizing people most in need of support such as those who are in crisis, undergoing difficult life changes, or experiencing mental health issues.

Provide training

Managers may often be in a position to observe changes in behaviour or hear from co-workers that someone appears to be having difficulties.

  • Make sure your mental health first aid is up to date.
  • Increase interpersonal and social competency through training in stress management and coping skills to help people deal more effectively with problems. 
  • Raise awareness of organizational and community supports including expertise through your human resources department, crisis support lines and mental health agencies.

Educate and support employees

The following are some ideas to increase employee awareness and to support those who may be struggling:

  • Provide suicide prevention education.
  • Provide education to help recognise mental health problems.
  • Promote awareness that many deaths by suicides are preventable. Provide facts about suicide, risk factors and prevention approaches.
  • Ensure employees understand that they are not required to intervene or put themselves at risk if they are ever in the position of responding to a situation of a potential suicide.
  • Expand awareness of mental illness and addiction.
  • Help reduce stigma associated with race, gender, disability and sexual orientation, mental illness, substance use disorder, and suicide.
  • Encourage help-seeking behaviours for such problems. 
  • Create a caring work environment/
  • Invest in a wellbeing programme for your employees to help support them.