- Posted by Jon Harju
- On September 6, 2019
There can be fewer more tragic circumstances than hearing news of a colleague’s suicide. We’re often left wondering if warning signs were missed and what could have been done to help. But in reality, it’s difficult to know what signs we should be watchful for in the workplace.
How to detect suicidal risk factors and warning signs in the workplace
There’s no single cause for suicide. It often occurs when someone has lost hope, feels helpless, and wants to end their pain, but sees no other way out.
It’s the combination of risk factors and warning signs that increases a person’s risk of suicide.
Examples of risk factors:
- Serious mental health and/or addiction problem
- Recent major loss (for example, the death of a loved one or a job loss)
- Serious physical illness
Examples of warning signs:
- Acting more aggressive or stressed than usual
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Not showing up for work as often or being absent for periods of time
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated from others
3 scripts to help you talk to an employee who may be at risk of suicide
Many of us notice changes in people around us and get the feeling that ‘something is not right.’ You may avoid approaching a person for fear of not knowing what to say or making the situation worse.
But if you have fears that someone may be suicidal, take action by starting the conversation. Find a safe place to talk with the person, and assure them of your concern and respect for their privacy.
Explain you have noticed changes in their behaviour and that you are concerned about them.
Hey, I’ve noticed you have not been yourself lately. I’m worried about you. I’m here to support you in any way I can. How are you feeling these days?
Ask them directly if they are having thoughts of hopelessness and despair. Ask them if they are feeling suicidal.
I’m going to ask you a question because I care and am here to support you. Sometimes when a person feels overwhelmed, they think of possible ways to escape their situation — they may even think about ending their life. Are you experiencing any suicidal thoughts? How can I best support you right now?
Help them find immediate social support or medical help. If you don’t feel confident helping someone through a crisis period, call Canada Suicide Prevention Service for advice and support.
I want you to know that you’re not alone and you’re appreciated and valued by many people. Let’s check out what resources could be of help to you and how we can help you right now, at this moment.
4 necessary suicide prevention measures for every workplace
- Provide ample and accessible mental health support benefits, made available to all employees
- Promote the mental health and wellness of employees, i.e. via paid mental health days and sufficient vacation time
- Provide suicide prevention awareness and training to all employees
- Foster a culture where seeking help and support is encouraged and confidential
Support can have a life-changing impact
When someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, they’re unlikely to reach out for help. By offering a person support, it reduces their feelings of isolation and immediately decreases their risk of suicide.
If you feel someone is in crisis or immediate danger, connect them with resources in your organization (e.g. human resources, mental health benefits program) and to mental health resources in your community e.g. a local crisis centre, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line, 1 866 APPELLE (Quebec residents) and the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566), that all offer 24/7 support.
Learn how Snapclarity is transforming the employee mental healthcare experience.