Employers have important role to play in reducing suicide

Every day, eight Australians die by suicide. And this affects more people than you might think, with one in four people saying they know someone who has taken their own life. Chances are suicide has affected someone in your workplace.

According to research by Suicide Prevention Australia not all people who suicide have a mental illness, but it is a significant risk factor of suicide, with suicide rates among people with mental illness at least seven times higher than the general population.

"Given that one in six people in the Australian workforce are suffering from a mental illness at any one time and the highest number of suicides are by people of working age, it’s perhaps no surprise that mental illness is also the leading cause of long-term sickness absences among Australian workers," said Nicole Cockayne, director of Discovery and Innovation and The Black Dog Institute.

"By prioritising the mental health of your staff, you can not only avoid the above costs but also reap other benefits including improved staff morale and productivity, reduced staff turnover as well as improved workplace relationships.

Within your organisation, supporting each other is everyone’s role. And your staff are well placed to notice when their colleagues are under a lot of stress or not coping.

"But would they know what to do or how to help? Evidence-based workplace training is one of the easiest ways you can build the capacity of your staff to support one another," said Ms Cockayne.

"It could be as simple as signing up to do the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training, a one-hour online course which costs just $10 per person and will easily fit into your workplace training schedule.

"This course will empower your staff to support one another by giving them the skills and knowledge to identify changes in behaviour, non-verbal cues and indirect verbal expressions that could indicate suicidal thoughts," she added.

"It will also give you the confidence to talk to a colleague about their suicidal thoughts and connect them with professional care.

"Some staff won’t feel comfortable seeking help from others due to a fear of judgement. Employers have the opportunity to make a powerful statement to their staff by prioritising mental health and suicide prevention. You have a responsibility to protect your staff, and you don’t need to have had a suicide in your organisation for workplace mental health to be important," said Dr Alex Hains, Regional Manager of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative.

"This is extremely important, as recent research from beyondblue found that for people who have thought about suicide, having someone listen to them and show care and support was the most important thing to them – and you don’t need to be a health professional to do that!"

The Collaborative has been working with a number of leading employers across the region, including Internetrix, Catholic Education Office, Wollongong City Council, Kiama Council, Shellharbour Council, COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN and Waminda South Coast Women's health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, to rollout QPR online training to staff, as part of the LifeSpan integrated-approach to suicide prevention research trial, developed by The Black Dog Institute.

"It’s pleasing to see that so many organisations have already signed up to enable staff to undertake this training, and we encourage more to get involved" said Dr Hains.

Click here to find out more about QPR online for organisations.

Contact the Collaborative directly on 1300 069 002 to enquire about QPR for your organisation.

If you or someone you know needs support now, please call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or click here to view other support services.