Updated: Mar 1, 2020
By: Logan Cohen - Professional Therapist & Online Life Coach
We have spoken about both the caution signs and the warning signs for suicide in the workplace in this article. Now that you as the reader are oriented to what you are looking at regarding the level of risk regarding suicide in the workplace, let's talk about exactly how to respond to this risk appropriately.
How to respond as a Manager when there is a warning sign of suicide in the workplace
#1 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Convey honest concern and acceptance of employee’s perspectives
If you are dealing with anyone struggling with mental health symptoms, but especially a Man, you can probably assume that they have a really hard time accepting their own shortcomings. If they are talking to you so that you can actually hear their honest concerns, please know that it has taken a lot for them to get that far. The least you can do is accept their concerns without judgement. The degree to which you can do this will set the precedent for whether you can be trusted in the future if/when things get potentially dangerous so that you can do something about it.
#2 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Get Them Talking
Even the idea of suicide in the workplace is enough to scare most people into silence. Many times, we even assume that our ability to help redirect a conversation away from out of risk that we might “suggest” suicide is a common problem. People considering taking their lives often have mixed feelings about it and combined with the social taboo about suicide - are often quite avoidant of speaking to suicidal thoughts openly. If they are thinking about it, then the more we know the more we can be of help. And encouraging silence only reinforces the taboo that is problematic to begin with.
#3 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Provide Them The Option for Further (Outside) Connection
It is oftentimes a helpful maneuver to offer an employee who is showing signs of considering suicide in the workplace an opportunity to call someone. Sometimes when a person can speak to a trusted confidante outside of their immediate professional setting, they can develop the self awareness to disclose needed information more openly when/if they are considering suicide in the workplace.
#4 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Be Clear That You Will Have To Break Confidentiality To Help Keep Them Safe
It is a beautiful thing if someone who is considering suicide in the workplace discloses their intent to you. Please know that they told you because they trusted you to do your own due diligence - now it’s time to follow company policy insofar as making sure appropriate parties know what is required for an adequate professional response to suicide in the workplace. Do Not Keep The Secret.
#5 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Refer the Employee to Appropriate Care IMMEDIATELY
Part of that “adequate professional response” to risk of suicide in the workplace as identified above should include an appropriate referral to a mental health practitioner. Pre-arranged services can be helpful, so it is generally recommended that a professional space create pre-established arrangements with mental health practitioner(s) for these cases. You don’t want to attempt coordinating this as a reactive response and a suicide in the workplace may be averted with pre-existing treatment arrangements.
#6 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Coordinate Natural & Community Supports
When it comes to the potential for suicide in the workplace, it always helps if someone is surrounded by friendly and familiar faces. In these cases, a Manager can arrange for and/or coordinate Friends and Family to make sure the individual in question is not spending time alone when they are feeling suicidal in the workplace - or anywhere else for that matter.
#7 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Connect with Healthcare Practitioners
As a Manager, you know the nature of this employee’s job responsibilities, as well as a description of their recent performance and/or personal presentation. This information can be very helpful to the employee’s healthcare providers.
#8 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Make An Effort to Return the Employee to Their Old Job
As mentioned above, our Professional identities are often quite dear to us. If at all possible and there are no obvious barriers based on previously disruptive behavior, it is ideal if the employee can be returned to their previous position. Oftentimes this will require the implementation of job accommodations or flexible work schedules, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to basic safety. And if appropriate professional boundaries can be maintained, you will also have an employee who is now sooo much more comfortable and dedicated to your mission as a Manager.
#9 Manager Response to Risk of Suicide in the Workplace
Document Appropriately on Personnel File
This is an important element of Balance between your responsibility as a Manager, as well as a good Samaritan. It is important to follow our company policy for documenting the situation that unfolded when suicide in the workplace was in question. With this being said, you might not need to share explicit information about medical information - and a mental health condition being a part of this information.
We have spent the beginning of the this blog article series on suicide in the workplace writing directly for a Manager. It is our assumption that professional workplaces are doing a good enough job creating settings of safety for employees so that everyone can count on expecting safety and trust from their Manager around considering suicide in the workplace.
We also know that in the real world, it frequently doesn't work out that way and we might know more than our co-worker's Manager even does. Or even worse, that Manager might know and still not be responding appropriately. With these cases in mind, we have also gone on to create the following appropriate responses of a co-worker when there is a suspected consideration of suicide in the workplace.
Co-Worker Response to Warning Sign of Suicide in the Workplace
#1 Co-Worker Response to Warning Sign of Suicide in the Workplace
It is common for Men in professional settings to take a more "hands off" approach to a colleague's personal pain and discomfort. All of us Men are trained to prioritize our roles of Provider and Protector for our Loved Ones, which means that if a Male Friend is going through a hard time, we often think the best way to respond is encouraging them to "just brush themselves off, keep their heads up, and keep on truckin'", but that is oftentimes not helpful. In fact if this individual is considering suicide in the workplace, this only perpetuates the expectation that they have for themselves to "buck it up" and the inherent shame associated with feeling overwhelmed and considering defeat.
#2 Co-Worker Response to Warning Sign of Suicide in the Workplace
Avoid Changing The Subject
If a co-worker has approached you to discuss suicide in the workplace, then the least you can do is not change the topic. Chances are that it took a TON of courage to disclose they are considering suicide in the workplace. Just stay there with them for a bit and let them keep talking. You might be able to be a small part of the solution.
#3 Co-Worker Response to Warning Sign of Suicide in the Workplace
Do NOT Give a Lecture or a Sermon About "Right versus Wrong"
There is enough shaming around considering suicide in the workplace and everywhere else. If that was going to help, then it would have helped by now, so just stop it. Another example of this type of response to considering suicide in the workplace would be to call their perspectives "silly" or to minimize them in any way.
#4 Co-Worker Response to Warning Sign of Suicide in the Workplace
They cannot just "get over it", so don't tell them to
Whether this includes, "just go back to who you were before" or even "snap out of it", this is likely to only make things worse. Even if you are intending to be a cheerleader, a coworker discussing suicide in the workplace needs to know that even though they are thinking about this, they CAN speak to other People about it. If this is possible, we can be a part of a prevention solution rather than a response to a co-worker or employee who has followed through with completing suicide in the workplace.
It is one thing to recognize the warning signs of suicide in the workplace, but another thing altogether to respond appropriately. We are hopeful this series of blog articles provides helpful information about well researched interventions as a Manager and/or co-worker who wants those around Him to be safe and healthy when it comes to recognizing the warning signs of suicide in the workplace.
Unfortunately sometimes our co-workers and/or employees - no matter how much we want them to be OK and try to be supportive - will still persist in their suicidal behavior. This is a horrible fact of Life, however I also want you to consider something...As a professional Therapist and Online Life Coach, even I cannot control the behavior of other People, so give yourself a BREAK.
Even so, suicide of a co-worker or employee can be an awful experience for everyone who survives the victim in the wake of their death. When it comes to an appropriate response to suicide in the workplace, you have to know what to do.
If a colleague, friend, or even YOU are just not feeling “right” anymore and know something needs to change, but are not yet ready to go see a healthcare professional in person, please keep reading our blog.
We have TONS of great information about how to establish Health & Happiness in your Life as well as Loved Ones naturally with Balance. It is our hope that this information in this easy to access online life coach platform will make the difference in the lives of Men in our community.
In addition to the mission of the Balanced Man Plan to do our part in suicide prevention, we are also going to literally put our money where our mouth is. 20% of all proceeds from The Balanced Man Plan will be donated directly to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention – so you’re investment in your own Health and Well-Being through Balance will continue to “pay it forward” for People who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and behavior, as well as with therapeutic services for the survivors left behind after suicide.
My name is Logan Cohen and I am a Professional Therapist & Life Coach with over 10 years in the field of Counseling Psychology. I am a Clinical Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, as well as the founder of New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC in Charlotte, NC. After spending tens of thousands of clinical hours with my own clients, starting a successful group practice, as well as a beautiful Family, I “picked my head up from the grindstone” to check in on childhood Friends & Loved Ones.
I painfully discovered that more than a few of my childhood Friends passed away at a young age from preventable health conditions and decided that as a Man, Husband, Father, and Friend, I could no longer stand by as People suffered in silence and self-destructed rather than ask for help. It doesn’t have to be like that and the holistic healing methods offered by the Balanced Man Plan is designed to help People “get unstuck” and break free from old patterns that are the barriers between Self & quality of Life.
The Balanced Man Plan is a therapeutic digital experience delivered through Self-Guided Coaching Plans created by a Male Therapist with the common barriers & strengths of Men in mind. The Balanced Man Plan has the goal of introducing a natural Balance back to Life so it is sustainable for the optimal Health & Well-Being of Self and Loved Ones - and ALL from the privacy and comfort of Home. If you have enjoyed what you see so far, check out our Self Guided Coaching Plans!