Employers have a duty of care to workers and to ensuring their health, safety and welfare. HSE promotes action that prevents or tackles any risks to worker’s physical and mental health, for example due to work-related stress.
These risks can lead to physical and/or mental ill health and, potentially, suicidal ideation, intent and behaviour. As an employer, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of work contributing to the causes of suicide.
Suicide is a major cause of premature death in Great Britain. However, most suicides are preventable with appropriate interventions.
Many suicides are impulsive moments of crisis associated with significant life events. For example, people struggling with isolation, relationship breakdown, financial problems or work pressures. It can also be linked to pre-existing mental health conditions.
Work-related factors may contribute to feelings of humiliation or isolation. An issue or combination of issues such as job insecurity, discrimination, work stressors and bullying may play their part in people becoming suicidal.
Manage the risk
You should prevent or reduce stress caused by work factors. But also be aware of the impact of non-work factors and, where possible, try to help people through these. You could for example:
- be flexible with working hours
- allow workers time for counselling or medical appointments
- allow them time to get other advice, for example from solicitors
- direct workers to appropriate help, for example from their GP or an employee assistance programme (EAP)
- identify other sources of potential help
Promote good mental health in your workplace, talk about mental health and stress within teams. This will help reduce or remove any stigma attached to mental health issues and provide a more supportive, understanding environment. Keep in touch with workers who are home working.
Tackle potential mental health triggers such as bullying, harassment and discrimination. Consider the impact of change, redundancies and job security.
Consider things happening at work that are likely to be additionally stressful for workers, for example:
- change, no matter how small
- reorganisation, especially if this may lead to job losses
- disciplinary action
If you manage someone with pre-existing issues, for example a mental health condition, ask them how you can support them. Ask how you can help if they start to exhibit symptoms, for example give them time, put them in a separate room or call a named person.
Restrict or control access to items which can be used by someone with suicidal thoughts, for example drugs or anaesthetics, pesticides and weapons.
Support workers who may be suicidal
If you think someone may be suicidal, encourage them to seek help from their GP, EAP, the Samaritans or to talk to a trusted friend or family member.
Signs that someone is struggling include:
- ups and downs in their mood
- not wanting to mix socially any more
- changes to their routine, like sleeping or eating
- seeming flat or low on energy
- neglecting themselves, showering less, or caring less about their personal appearance
- making reckless or rash decisions
- increased alcohol or drug abuse
- being more angry or irritable than usual
- talking about suicide or wanting to die in a vague or joking way
- giving away their possessions
- saying goodbye to people as if they won’t see them again
This list was adapted from the CALM website.
Support workers after an incident
If someone takes their own life, you should consider the impact on their colleagues, particularly if the suicide happens at work. Support your staff, give them the opportunity to seek help through your EAP, occupational health provider or counselling and to talk about what has happened.
Check that other workers are not feeling the same or under pressure. Make staff aware of the support available if they are having similar thoughts.
Use the event as an opportunity to review your risk assessment for work-related stress and mental health.
Managers, directors, owners, CEOs etc are also employees. Look after them (and yourself) too.
Suicides in the workplace are not RIDDOR reportable
Suicides in the workplace are not RIDDOR reportable as the regulations only require you to report a death from a workplace accident.
Help for managers
- Guidance for managers on mental health at work
- CALM (Campaign against living miserably)
- NHS help on suicide