MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: How to Spot Signs of Low Mental Health in Workplace

Spotting signs of low mental health in the workplace can help prevent death by suicice.
Two people are holding hands, as one tries to comfort the other.

Today (10th September 2021) is World Suicide Prevention Day—an awareness event that provides an opportunity to promote action through proven means to reduce the number of deaths by suicide and suicide attempts across the world.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), one in every 100 deaths is a result of someone dying from suicide worldwide. The majority of these deaths are found to be men with women being the majority in attempting death by suicide.

The association believes that by raising awareness of the number of deaths by suicide, reducing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, deaths can be reduced around the world. This year, IASP is using the tagline “Creating Hope Through Action” to remind people that there is an alternative and that people take action, no matter how big or small, to provide hope to people who are struggling with their mental health.

How To Spot Potential Signs

Signs of low mental health are not always easy to spot. For some people symptoms that could lead to a suicide attempt or death by suicide could look different. The Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) is an organisation that provides support to chartered accountants in the UK. It provides the following advice from its wellbeing experts on how to spot signs of low mental health.

“According to the mental health charity Mind, many people think about suicide at some point in their lives,” a spokesperson for the charity says. “Here are some of the things you may think or feel: everything’s hopeless, you’re useless, unwanted or unneeded by others or even taking your life is your only option.

“Meanwhile, you may also experience things like sleeping problems (including waking too early), changes in your appetite and you may lose or gain weight. Your self-esteem may be very low, and you may try to avoid contact with other people, and feel no need to take care of yourself (including your physical appearance).

“Spotting when someone else is thinking about suicide can be difficult,” the spokesperson explains. “But, if you notice any of your loved ones exhibiting the following signs, then it might be time to step in:

  • Talk about feelings of hopelessness,
  • Have sudden episodes of rage and anger,
  • Act recklessly and take part in risky activities with no concern for the consequences,
  • Say they feel trapped, and that they can’t see their way out of their problems,
  • Self-harm (this includes misusing drugs or alcohol),
  • Become increasingly withdrawn or appear anxious and agitated.”
An exhausted woman is sat at her computer.

Make sure to look after yourself while trying to help an employee or colleague.

How Can You Help?

Once you’ve spotted some of the signs, it might seem daunting to approach your colleague about their mental health. Papyrus, a national charity dedicated to the prevention of deaths of young people to suicide, advises that it’s important to remain calm and listen.

“Avoid judgement, regardless of what’s going on,” its website explains. “Suicide should always be taken seriously. Ask open questions to get an understanding of what is happening for them and how it is making them feel.

“Remember that, regardless of what has happened or your opinion on this, it is making a young person think about ending their life. So it’s important to listen and take them seriously.”

The charity also says that it’s important not to judge or offer platitudes such as “things will pick up” or “life’s too short.” Your colleague or employee doesn’t need you to fix anything, just to listen at this point.

“It has taken that young person a lot of courage to be open and honest with you, it is important that you take what they say seriously and without judgment,” says Papyrus. “Also, empathic listening is key here. Ask open and honest questions and show that you’re listening by reflecting on what they say and clarifying what they mean.

“Don’t jump in with solutions—allow them to express their problems first.”

A worries woman looks at a glass of wine.

Abusing drugs or alcohol can be a sign of low mental health and contemplating death by suicide.

How Do I Look After Myself or Get Outside Support?

If you do not feel comfortable or able to provide help to your colleague, there are organisations that can give you or them the right advice or support.

  • Samaritans: Call 116 123 any day, any time. If you prefer to express your feelings in writing, email jo@samaritans.org
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): Call the helpline on 0800 58 58 58. CALM is a resource for young men who are feeling unhappy
  • PAPYRUS: Call 0800 068 41 41 or visit papyrus-uk.org for more information. This voluntary organisation aims to support young people thinking about suicide and those who are concerned about a young person
  • Breaking The Silence SF: Visit the website: https://www.suicideforum.com/. This is a website for suicidal people and those in a mental health crisis
  • Lifeline (N.Ireland): Call them on 0808 808 8000. This is for anyone in N.Ireland who is in distress or despair.
  • National Suicide Helpline UK: Call them on 0800 689 5652 or visit the https://www.spbristol.org/. Confidential 24hr listening service to anyone contemplating suicide.
  • Premier Lifeline: Call them on 0300 111 0101. Helpline providing a listening service, information, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective
  • SHOUT: Text 85258 and you’ll get help from a crisis volunteer

More information on World Suicide Prevention Day can be found on the IASP website.