So, you might think that suicide is a bit of a hefty subject for a Friday afternoon but for me at least there are no 'right-times' to bring up the subject.
While I appreciate as a topic of conversation it that can cause sideways glances and hushed tones, in the wider scheme of things it really should be on everyone's agenda.
It's been a few months since I said the 'S' word & after sitting in the local strategy meeting this afternoon I realised it's something I definitely should be saying more often.
Now, it is a topic mentioned in my talks, workshops and training days so that leaders are no longer afraid to broach the subject in their organisations but for those of you who do not need my services but enjoy reading my blogs I feel by not mentioning it I am doing you a disservice.
Talking about and raising awareness of suicide has to be part of your 'employee wellbeing' strategy.
Yes, ideally you're only focusing on all the fun stuff like away days, sprucing up the office & having competitions to raise money for charities.
But you always need to have a contingency plan in place for when things don't go so well.
I ask you this - do you have mention to suicide in your policies?
There is a difference between successful and unsuccessful suicides.
Statistically, men will do things which are pretty final when trying to commit suicide e.g., jump in front of a train, jump off a bridge, hang themselves, shoot themselves...
Whereas women traditionally will do things which are not as instantaneous e.g., take an overdose, or slit their wrists.
Both men and women who want to end their life do so in very different ways and this in part can shed some light on the disparity between male and female suicide rates.
This is however, not to downplay the disparity, nor the need to take preventative action but instead to make sure when you are introducing suicide as a topic into your organisation you are not being led a merry dance by the stats.
Sadly, 13 people are estimated to die by suicide every day in England and Wales and for every death roughly 10 people are affected.
When you break the numbers down into something more tangible not only does it in my mind become more shocking than for example, 9 per 100,000 or 4,699 (ONS, 2016).
Thankfully, in the last 10 years the rates of suicide has remained relatively the same although a shift who is 'at risk' has definitely occurred.
So, if you have a workforce which has high levels of male workers aged 30 - 59 &/or females aged 45 - 59 you need to be extra vigilant in this area as both these age ranges have a statistically higher rate of successful suicide than other ages.
This is not to say that if you work with particularly young workers or older workers you are off the hook - you still need to talk about it. It still happens outside of these age ranges - just not quite as much...
What can you do?
There are some really simple things you can do to increase awareness of suicide.
You can have a list of contact numbers (e.g., Samaritans, local counselors, NHS crisis...) in the staff-room, in the toilets or in the handbook.
You can make sure you are talking about suicide as part of your employee engagement/wellbeing policy/strategy.
You could invite people in from local suicide organisations to talk about suicide.
Find out who in your local area is heading up the suicide prevention strategy & what you can do to help/be involved.
In all honesty, whatever you do please just make sure you do something.
It really is everybody's business.
The NHS, the local council, the local health boards... and all the other public/professional bodies which are dedicated to preventing suicide are unfortunately always the last to know.
We tend to find out when it's too late.
When that person who was in your office, was your family member, or was your friend has become another statistic.
When you start talking about it, you are so much more likely to be able to prevent anyone from taking their life than I ever can.
I only see the people who wan't to get better.
Again, I am sorry if this post has stirred up something you weren't quite prepared for & if this is the case you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone) or head over to their website www.samaritans.org and find out where your local office is if you wanted to speak to someone in person.
Best wishes, Katie.
Office of National Statistics (2016) Suicide Occurrences England and Wales. Retrieved on 03-03-2017 from, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/suicideinenglandandwales