Why is suicide a workplace issue?
Employers have a legal duty of care to provide a safe working environment for employees. This duty also requires employers to support their employees’ health and wellbeing which includes creating an environment where mental health is treated with the same importance as people’s physical health, and the culture is one where people feel able to talk about suicidal feelings and seek help.
Case law has increasingly established that many aspects, including overwork, accidents, bullying, lack of supervision and pace of work, can lead to mental consequences. These effects range from stress through to suicide.
We spend a large part of our waking hours at work which can have a large impact on health and wellbeing as it can provide a purpose to get up in the morning, as well as a sense of belonging.
Not everyone may view suicide as a workplace issue and whilst many employee’s troubles may well be personal ones, they can’t be expected to leave their personal worries at the door. Additionally work also has the potential to contribute to someone’s state of mind.
Managers are not expected to act as counsellors and it is important to have boundaries and know when/how to refer someone to more specialist sources of help where needed. A good way to provide support at work is to train a mental health first aider. If someone is struggling, knowing they can approach a colleague or a mental health first aider and be listened to with empathy and without judgement could be the first step in them accessing the help they need.
The legal position now is that, in rare cases, the courts can find that suicide was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of an employer’s breach of duty. In some cases, a direct link can be established between the workplace to many consequences, including depression and suicide.
121 HR Solutions can assist with training for Mental Health First Aid. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.