Tuesday 10 September marked this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published just a week earlier, there were 6,507 suicides in the UK during 2018; significantly up on the previous year, and the first increase since 2013.
In a trend that has continued since the mid-1990s, three-quarters of these registered deaths were among men.
While conversations around mental health have begun to open up in recent years, taboos around this issue still exist, particularly in the workplace, where many feel that opening up could adversely impact their employment.
Working to dispel the myths around mental health is vital. Nevertheless, research conducted by Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing in June 2019 found that just a fifth (19%) of respondents met the first of the six core standards set out by the Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers in October 2017, which were designed to improve workplace mental health. The first of these standards asked employers to ‘produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan’; almost half (49%) have not yet made progress towards this.
Having a plan in place to identify individuals experiencing mental ill-health, particularly to the point of feeling suicidal, is key if employers are to play a role in suicide prevention. An important step within this is to ensure organisations have individuals in place who employees can turn to for support.
Suicide rates in the construction industry are more than three times the national average, with an average of two construction workers taking their own lives per day.
Housebuilder Redrow has, to date, trained more than 100 mental health first aiders, with plans to extend this to 200 volunteers across the business. The organisation’s Mind Your Head campaign, which aims to provide support and education on mental health for all employees and sub-contractors, is part of its approach to creating a safe, non-judgemental environment for staff, in order to de-stigmatise mental health issues and educate all across the business to identify if someone is struggling.
When addressing the issue of suicide, it is equally vital to have measures in place to support employees who have been affected by the death of a family member, friend or even colleague.
While suicide is not the easiest matter to broach and discuss, putting channels in place to do so in the workplace could make more of a difference than employers may think.
Delegates attending this year’s Employee Benefits Live on 1 and 2 October at ExCel, London, will be able to access our Mental Health Hub, which we are once again operating in partnership with Mind. Here, they will be able to discuss how to improve mental health in the workplace and explore free guidance.