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Suicide prevention & fostering a healthy work environment

September 6, 2016


As an employer, you are in a position of influence and authority. We spend a significant chunk of our lives at work – it’s up to you to make sure that such time is a positive experience for your employees. That doesn’t mean letting them get away with whatever they want; it’s about striking that balance between managing your business efficiently and constructing a healthy work environment.

By the estimations of the World Health Organisation, over 800,000 people die by committing suicide every year. In Australia alone, approximately 2,500 people commit suicide per year – if we think about the devastating knock-on effect it has upon the person’s friends, family and colleagues, the impacts it has upon our community are incomprehensible.

This week has particular significance for this issue: 10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day dedicated to the awareness of suicide and united commitment to its prevention. On 8 September we have ‘R U OK? Day’, which encourages people to regularly check in with those around them and make connections with people who may be struggling.

What can you do?

One trigger for suicide is loneliness – the feeling of isolation despite being physically surrounded by hundreds of people every day. While some roles require employees to work alone, this doesn’t mean that they should be cut off from the rest of the workforce entirely. Encourage frequent communication and collaboration between your employees, even if it is only in a digital sense, and ensure that no person feels disconnected from the rest of the business.

For some people, the feeling of loneliness may be present even when working in teams, if the requisite personal engagement is not present. While we all expect our employees to act professionally, there is no harm in permitting them to connect on a personal level, especially when not engaging with clients or customers. These relationships may just save a life – that’s one more person the employee can ask for help, or seek support from, if things take a turn for the worse.


Some ideas for creating and improving a healthy work environment and seeking to prevent suicide include:

  • establishing a mentoring system where each employee has someone they can turn to for support and advice
  • hosting workplace social events to celebrate employee achievements (whether personal or work-related), birthdays or Christmas which encourages social interaction between your employees and shows them that you appreciate their hard work and commitment to the business
  • ensuring that any critical feedback you provide to an employee is outweighed by positive encouragement
  • fostering a communicative environment so every employee feels comfortable in asking for help or admitting that they are struggling
  • periodically checking in with your employees and encouraging them to come to you with any concerns
  • establishing extra-curricular activities such as lunches or sporting activities for you and your employees to engage in together
  • offering flexibility if an employee’s personal circumstances require it, such as altered working hours, working from home or a reduction in hours

For more information, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you would like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.