Suicide Awareness For Managers
Many Managers are uncomfortable approaching the topic of suicide with employees. It is a highly personal matter that is difficult for many to understand, let alone talk about. However, talking directly and openly when there is a threat of suicide is the best course of action.
If there appears to be immediate danger such as a suicide note, or a statement that they want to end their life, call 999, contact your Human Resources department. You may feel that by taking action you are being disloyal, and this can happen especially when the employee has asked you not to tell anyone. Remember, your actions are essential in getting them the help they need. For most people, suicidal intent is temporary. If they can get immediate help, suicide can be prevented.
Possible warning signs of suicide risk:
• Sudden changes in behavior or mood, such as sadness or depression, uncharacteristic silence or withdrawal, or neglect of work, appearance or hygiene
• Talking or writing about death or dying, or making suggestive comments like “What’s the point of living? Life is meaningless. No one would miss me if I were gone.”
• Seeking lethal means, such as saving pills
• Giving away possessions
• Asking about details of their life insurance policy, especially as it relates to cause of death
• Showing interest in end-of-life affairs, such as making a will, discussing funeral preferences, etc.
How should I handle it?
The EAP is here to help you before, during and after the crisis.
Due to the potentially serious consequences of suicidal intent, this is not something you should try to handle alone. Contact your Human Resources department and call the EAP; make it clear that the situation is serious and needs a quick response. Ask to speak with an Employee Assistance Consultant. Do not hand the phone to the employee until you have spoken with the Employee Assistance Consultant.
Dealing with suicide in the workplace can be very stressful. As a Manager, don’t hesitate to get support for yourself. You can call the EAP and ask to talk to someone about your personal reactions to the situation.
A manager asks:
“I’ve heard that an employee has been making comments about suicide for a few weeks. His coworker came forward but said she was asked to keep it a secret. Apparently, the employee has been saying things like ‘everyone will be sorry when I’m gone’ and ‘I might as well be dead.’ I know that he is going through a divorce, but not much else. This has been going on for a few weeks, and I assumed that he was just looking for attention, but I shared this with my HR manager and she suggested that I call the EAP.”
The Employee Assistance Consultant suggests:
“Any time an employee voices thoughts of suicide, they need to be taken seriously. It is good that his coworker came forward, because he may need professional help. It is important that either you (as his Manager) or his HR manager speak with him as soon as possible. Let him know that you have learned that he has had suicidal thoughts and that you are concerned about him. Reassure him that the person who came to you only did so out of concern for his safety. Ask if he has had thoughts of ending his life, has had suicidal thoughts or has had thoughts of harming himself (whatever feels most appropriate). You need to be direct about this and not just ask him how he is doing. Give him a chance to explain.”
“Let him know that his safety is important to you. Ask if he would be willing to accept some help. Offer to connect him to an EAP Counsellor. You may also need to notify his emergency contact to make sure someone can stay with him until he can see a professional.”