How to manage severe mental health problems

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Health Assured team

23 February 2017

Supporting an employee with suicidal thoughts

When an employee tells us they feel suicidal, it can create instant fear and confusion; what do I say and what do I need to do?

One of the most helpful things you can do at that moment is to remain calm and appear non-judgemental. Try to help the person feel that they are safe to talk and safe to share what’s going on, then you can explore the best course of action. At times of emotional turmoil and confusion, people can often attempt to verbalise this and refer to themselves as being suicidal. Not everyone who uses this language will be actively at risk of suicide or self-harm.

Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts is not going to make the situation worse, in fact, talking openly about the suicidal thoughts and feelings can help someone feel safe, heard and valued.   An employee that has disclosed that they are having suicidal thoughts has reached a place where they can no longer contain the emotional pain that they’re experiencing and often cannot see another way out of their situation; having open and frank discussions can quickly identify support options that the employee might not have considered.  

In any discussion, it’s helpful to try and answer the below questions:

  • Does anyone else know how you’re feeling?
  • Where is their support coming from? Family, partner, friends etc.
  • Have they seen their GP to discuss their emotional health?
  • Are they prescribed any medication to help their mood and if so, are they taking it?
  • Has anything changed recently? Are they exposed to additional life stress?
  • Have they ever felt like this before, if so, what helped them come through it?

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