Looking out for your staff
Did you know that more people died from suicide in August and September than COVID19? Suicide takes someone's life every four seconds. The workplace can be full of stresses and triggers causing people to struggle with their mental and physical health. It is important to look after your employees and know how to spot the signs and what to do to help.
Let's start with some of the signs to look for. One sign is the expression of thoughts or feelings about being unhappy, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live or wanting to end their life. Another sign is when an employee expresses feelings of isolation, loneliness, hopelessness or loss of self-esteem. Employees may also start to withdraw from colleagues, have a decrease in work performance or difficulty completing tasks. Any obvious changes to an employees behavior, especially restlessness, irritability, impulsivity, recklessness or aggression, could be a sign they are struggling. When an employee talks about arranging end-of-life personal affairs such as making a will or concrete plans for suicide, you should be concerned and talk to them. People who are struggling will also often start to abuse alcohol or other substances. If an employee has a depressed mood or mentions previous suicidal behaviour or thoughts they could be at risk. These are important signs to look out for in not only employees but other people you care about. It is important to look out for your employees and colleagues, especially those that are losing their jobs.
Now you know some of the signs to look out for you need to know what to do next. One thing you can do is express your concern for their wellbeing, encourage them to talk and listen WITHOUT judgment. This can be hard to approach and scary but just being there is usually really helpful. If you think the person will be more comfortable talking with someone else that they know better, you can offer to call someone for them or give them the chance to call someone themselves. While being there for them can be very helpful, chances are you are not a trained counselor or mental health support worker. Therefore it is important to encourage them to reach out to a professional who can help them. To help encourage them offer to call or go there with them for support. If you are in the unfortunate situation where an employee or colleague has attempted to or indicates that they are about to intentionally harm themselves, you should not leave them alone and remove access to any means you might see as a risk. You should then seek immediate support from health services.
You can also support your employees on an institutional level. You can provide information sessions for your staff on mental health and suicide prevention. Make sure that all your staff know what resources the company provides and the resources available within the local community too. Make sure the work environment makes your employees feel comfortable. The work environment should allow employees to feel comfortable talking about problems that have an impact on their ability to work effectively and support each other during difficult times. You could also improve the work environment by identifying any work-related stressors which can negatively impact mental health, and reduce or remove them. Your company should also design and implement a plan for how to sensitively manage and communicate the suicide or suicide attempt of an employee in a way that minimizes further distress. This plan should include the availability of trained health workers and support services for staff.
The current situation is uncertain and scary which can trigger mental health issues. Everyone has struggled one way or another with lockdown and the impacts of coronavirus. People are experiencing something completely different and each person is experiencing coronavirus and lockdown differently. If you are fortunate enough to be working at this time, remember to look out for your employees and colleagues. Even though many people are still working from home it is still important to check in on your employees and colleagues. Keep a special eye on those furloughed or have recently lost their job, if you can. We have to look out for the people around us. You never know what someone is going through, so be there for each other and always BE KIND.
For more information and more specific information based on your business sector visit: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention
If you are struggling with your mental health please visit you GP and discuss it with them. You can also call 999 if you need urgent support or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123, their website is also full of helpful tips if you are worried about someone or if you yourself are struggling with suicidal thoughts.