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IMG 4062 676

Putting people first: World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

The UK today isn’t well-equipped to deal with death. Although over the decades mortality rates have decreased, death remains a topic many understandably find hard to discuss.

In 2020, there were 4,902 suicides in just England[1], representing a rate of just under 10 deaths per 100,000 of people. These are people likely to be in employment – making this an issue that sadly many employers and employees may have to deal with alongside friends and family.

Suicide by an employee can have a profound effect on a business and their colleagues. An appropriate and empathetic response from an organisation, both in the early days and over the long term, will help everyone cope with the loss and ensures the business understands how to manage one of the most difficult situations they will ever face.

The time is right to address the taboo

Given the widespread implications that Covid-19 has (and is continuing to have), many employers and employees have faced an uncertain and challenging future adding to the concerns felt by so many. Indeed, 69% of employees reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect that Covid-19 has had on their lives[2]. Concerns about finances, the furlough scheme ending, or possible redundancy are all drivers that could cause employees additional anxiety, stress, and worry.

Crisis management action plan

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Employers have a duty of care to recognise this is an issue that could impact any workplace. Providing support to people who may be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing or tackling issues like harassment and bullying is only part of the solution.

Postvention as well as prevention

Businesses must have clear guidance if, sadly, a suicide does occur. Putting the right support in place can help employees through the grieving process and help prevent suicides happening in the future.

Here, Unum, shares some important steps that employers should take to get to that position:

  • Ensure employees have fast, direct, and easy access to mental health support.
  • Extend mental health training for line managers – they are in the best position to spot early signs of distress and support employees who are struggling.
  • Create a postvention committee of employees from across the business who will develop guidelines and roll them out to the organisation.
  • Ensure senior leaders understand what the postvention plan is and what is required of them.
  • Discover the support available from national and regional charities who have expertise in particular areas relating to mental health or bereavement.
  • Draft communication plans – think about how best to sensitively communicate to employees, stakeholders and beyond to customers and the wider community.
  • Consider how to manage social media. It’s important that organisations are aware of what is being discussed and address any rumours or unsafe messages.
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