This article was contributed by Christine Clark
Suicide can suddenly become a workplace issue for which an organisation response will be needed
This week a senior HR professional contacted me in a distressed state following a disciplinary meeting with a male member of staff. At the end of the meeting, the employee was in an emotional state and mentioned feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and suicide.
The man left the meeting leaving the assembled group to consider what to do; this situation had not been anticipated. After some discussion individually, as a group, and an organisation; they did nothing. The consensus of the group seemed to be,
“People who talk about suicide don’t do it “
However, after a night of reflection, the HR professional in question was very concerned that this matter had not been dealt with properly and they confided, “I was completely out of my comfort zone”.
With 6,233 suicides each year and 40-100 times more attempts, mainly by people of working age and seemingly “fine”, this issue is real and one that will very much emerge at some point in the workplace.
There were lots of things that could and should have been done in anticipation of a disclosure like this to support the distressed employee, to increase safety and to protect the individuals (HR and others at the meeting) who absorbed this information in order to provide a credible, robust employer response.
Solutions for this organisation include:
- Immediate support with this incident and the individual at risk
- Construction of both a suicide response policy and one page pathway for both staff and clients who link with the organisation
- Training with international accreditation in both suicide alertness (safeTALK) and intervention (ASIST)
- Support to make the organisation ‘suicide safer’, moving forward with activities centred on prevention, intervention and postvention
Ultimately this incident was eventually dealt with effectively by the organisation and individual feedback was very encouraging, as this example shows,
“ We will be much more confident to deal with suicide crisis in any context in the future, personally and professionally this knowledge is essential.”
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