Many people experience suicidal thoughts, ranging from fleeting moments of being completely overwhelmed, through to creating a detailed plan of how they will end their life. Having these thoughts does not necessarily mean that a person will go through with it, but it is extremely important that each person experiencing this is taken seriously.
A recent report from the Office for National Statistics show a shocking figure 6,507 suicides registered in the UK in 2018. Three-quarters of those deaths related to men, with the most at risk being those aged between 45-49. Sadly, there was also a tragic 31% increase in the number of registered deaths by suicide between 2017 and 2018 in males aged 20-24 years. Many workers within the construction industry fall into these demographics, which is why the industry is beginning to recognise that their workers have a higher risk of suicide.
What can we do to help people and reduce the number of suicides in the UK?
As a business leader, it is essential that you are mental health aware, encouraging others in your business to look out for the wellbeing of their colleagues. The first step would be to recognise the signs and risk factors associated with suicide. As you read the list below, you may feel that some of the factors are out of your control, but you can certainly help your employees by creating the right culture and offering support.
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Bullying and discrimination
- Bereavement or the end of a relationship
- Adjusting to a significant change
- Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Financial problems or homelessness.
There does not have to be a history of mental illness or previous suicide attempts, but this would make someone more at risk.
You can look out for the warning signs and ensure that everyone is being vigilant. A suicidal person may well say that they wish they were dead, but they may also be more subtle and talk about having no purpose or feeling like a burden to others. Their behaviour may change, and they may start to appear anxious, agitated and begin isolating themselves. They may also increase their use of alcohol or drugs or engage in other reckless activities. Any change in behaviour could be a sign that the person is suffering.
What to do if you are concerned about someone?
Check how they are
There is a myth that asking if someone is suicidal will make the situation worse. There is no evidence that this is true. Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence to show that even making small talk can significantly help to break the cycle of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. You are not going to make the situation worse if you are approaching the person from a place of genuine concern and compassion. You should never be afraid to ask if they are suicidal or are having thoughts about ending their life.
If someone is close to acting on suicidal thoughts or have already seriously harmed themselves, you may need to call 999 or offer to take the person to the nearest Accident and Emergency department. Stay with the person until they are safe in the care of the professionals.
Listen to them
Apply non judgemental listening skills and let them speak at their own pace. Don’t tell them their situation isn’t that bad or it could be worse as this undermines their feelings. Repeat back to them what you have heard to make sure you understood correctly – that way they will know you are listening and that you care.
Thank them for speaking to you about how they feel and reassure them that they have done the right thing by talking to you. Let them know that you care about them.
Encourage them to seek professional help
Let them know that you are there to listen and that you want to support them to get help. Offer signposting to services such as their GP or The Samaritans Helpline (116 123).
We are all human, and as humans we need a connection to others. By working together, taking care of ourselves and others, we can make a significant difference and genuinely save lives.