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After the turbulent times we’ve all experienced over the last year and a half, so much has changed.

We’ve all been affected by the smaller adjustments we’ve been required to make – masks, social distancing, rule of 6 and the like – and have had to be extra mindful about how our actions could affect others. But that’s really not too much to contend with when you compare it to the people who have been affected by immense, earth-shattering, profound changes that have affected their lives forever, yet are trying to be stoical and carry on with what passes as ‘normality’ these days.

The facts

That’s why, this year, we especially want to raise awareness around World Suicide Prevention Day. Listening charity, Samaritans, says that 6,944 people in the UK and Republic of Ireland died by suicide in 2018; that’s a shocking number. The figures across all of our nations and age groups have increased compared to previous years – and we don’t yet know the impact the pandemic has had. The highest incidences of suicide in England and Wales were in middle-aged men (aged 45-49) and women (aged 50-54), but rates are rising in younger men too, with the rate among 15-24-year-olds in Scotland increasing by 52.7 per cent.

Workplace awareness

The sad thing is that there is no single solution to this complex situation; people are unique and everyone’s circumstances are different. In the workplace, it’s especially difficult for people to admit they are struggling, due to the continued belief – real or perceived – that it will affect their job, others’ perceptions of them and they will be regarded as weak, unstable or unfit to work.

If you know or suspect one of your colleagues is struggling, signalling to them that you are there to listen if they want to talk is so valuable. It shows that someone has acknowledged their feelings and cares about them. It may even give them strength and comfort.

Being a good listener is vital when you are supporting someone. It means giving the person a safe space to speak at their own pace; not judging them or offering a solution. The old saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved” and whether that’s the case or not, the simple act of having someone to share a distressing burden with can really help release some of the pressure.

Moving forward

What we can take forward from recent times is our consideration for others and be available and ready to listen if colleagues need to talk. After all, little humanity can save lives.

Further information

World Suicide Prevention Day – Rethink Mental Illness

How to support someone you’re worried about – Samaritans

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