Group Risk Development (Grid) is urging employers to communicate mental health support “clearly and regularly” ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, emphasising that employees need to be reminded that expert help is available should they need it.
The representative body for group risk added that it is “crucial” to alert staff to the availability of support and how to access it independently, in confidence and outside of office hours.
Katherine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, said: “Even the most comprehensive of employer support programmes for mental health issues will not save a life if it is not communicated regularly so staff know how to access it in their darkest hour.
“This World Suicide Prevention Day, where the theme is ‘creating hope through action’, we would encourage employers to act by taking the time to review their communications around mental health support, as it could genuinely save an employee’s life and help put them back on the road to recovery. Suicide is never an inevitability,” Moxham added.
Unum UK backed Grid’s call, adding that employers need to consider how to best support the health and wellbeing of their employees throughout their careers at a business and not just through challenging times.
“Employers have a duty of care to recognise that suicide is an issue that could affect any employee in any workplace,” said Glenn Thompson, chief distribution officer at Unum UK. “Putting in appropriate measures to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees is a vital part of the employer/employee relationship.”
Providing support to people who may be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing or tackling issues like harassment and bullying can be a “big part of the solution”, Thompson added.
“We wholeheartedly agree with Grid that clear communication of support is imperative, as well as promoting open and honest dialogue between employers and employees,” he said. “If employees feel they can be honest about their mental health concerns, it could prevent an escalation of those concerns through managed intervention.”
Meanwhile, nurse-led health and wellbeing support service RedArc has highlighted “connectedness” as a key way to prevent the incidence of suicide, urging employers to build support into their communications and provision.
According to RedArc, connectedness in practice means “encouraging healthy relationship experiences among the community via work, social groups, family, friends and other social institutions” and “reminding people that human interactions, friendships and relationships are important”.
Christine Husbands, commercial director at RedArc, said: “Simply offering support is a form of connectedness in itself as it can help the individual to feel cared for, involved and present. In addition, highlighting the need for social integration – including friendship, and frequency of social contact – can play a key role in the prevention of suicide, as well as expediting recovering from mental ill-health.
“For many employers and insurers, offering access to specialists who can encourage connectedness is a step that can make a huge difference to someone battling with their mental health,” Husbands added.
The importance of support for all staff has been highlighted by data released by Towergate Health & Protection which revealed that 1.3% of overseas employees who contact a global employee assistance programme (EAP) for support are flagged as being at risk of suicide.
The figures, from a global EAP provider serving more than 6.5 million employees worldwide, show that employees in all regions need support, Towergate said.
According to the data, the rate of flagged cases (at risk of suicide as a percentage of total service users) was 5.6% in Africa, 1.5% in Latin America and 1.1% in Europe.
Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection, said the figures were “disturbing”.
She added: “We would encourage employers that do not offer or communicate their mental health support to use World Suicide Prevention Day as impetus to make changes and implement policy where needed.”