Everyone in the workplace should learn about the warning signs for suicide and how to spot if a colleague could be at risk. If you're concerned about someone at work, start by asking if they're OK. Offer to go with them to speak to a manager, or to drive them to see a health professional if they need it.

If the situation is urgent and you're concerned that the person is in immediate danger, don't leave them alone, unless you are concerned for your own safety. Call the person’s doctor, mental health crisis service or dial 000 and say that the person’s life is at risk.

For more tips on how to start a conversation, check out beyondblue's Have the conversation resource.

Don't leave the person

alone

if you're concerned for their safety

Supporting someone returning to work after a suicide attempt 

Someone returning to work after a suicide attempt is likely to feel isolated and alone. Any genuine care and concern that you can offer could make a real difference, helping them feel connected.

People who have attempted suicide may or may not want to talk to their colleagues about what has happened straight away, if at all. If not, it is important to respect their choice, but you can still make it clear you're there for them if they do want to talk about it. 

 

Things to remember

  • Listen without judging. It's likely they're trying to deal with intense feelings ranging from anger, regret, sadness, fear and guilt. While it may be hard to understand, it's important to accept what they are saying.
  • You don’t need to ask probing questions about what has happened, or why. They'll tell you when and if they're ready. If it's not something that you're comfortable discussing, be honest with them about it. 
  • Don’t avoid them because you feel uncomfortable – this can reinforce the sense of stigma. Get some ideas from counselling services about how you can communicate.
  • Remember it's not just what you say, but how you say it. People notice your body language.
  • If you don’t know how to respond to something, be honest and say so.
  • Recognise that suicide is a complex coping response to what feels like an intolerable situation.
  • Letting them know you care is a good start, and that you're there if they need you: "I'm so glad you're OK. You don’t have to say anything, but I’m here when you are ready to talk and I want to  support you to get through this”.
  • Be aware of cultural differences. This can affect how people respond to suicide, as well as how they feel about sharing information and seeking help.

Tips on having the conversation 

Kev and Shane share some tips on having a conversation with someone who has attempted suicide or is having suicidal thoughts, including how colleagues supported them at work. 

 

Additional guidance for managers

180-blue-hand
  • Create a supportive working environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable to speak up if they aren't coping. 
  • Where possible, minimise workplaces stress and identify strategies to protect employees.
  • Encourage the employee to seek support, if they aren't already connected with a health professional or support group. 
180-blue-speechbubble
  • If a person at risk of suicide takes time off work, contact them regularly to check in.
  • Involve the person as much as possible in decision-making about their return to work. Work together to strike a balance between capability and responsibility.
  • Check in with the employee on a regular basis – whether they are taking time off or have returned to work – to see how they are, and include a safety check.
180-blue-computer
  • Train key staff in suicide first-aid and make employees aware that trained colleagues are available to talk to. Provide access to a private phone to allow staff to call a suicide crisis line if required.
  • Develop appropriate policies and procedures for managing a crisis situation where an employee is at risk of suicide. 

Suicide prevention training and resources

LivingWorks Australia
Suicide awareness training programs to improve understanding and help people intervene to support a colleague at risk.

Mental Health First Aid
Courses teach mental health first-aid strategies to members of the public. The training equips people to support someone developing a mental health problem, or experiencing a mental health-related crisis, until appropriate professional treatment is received or the crisis resolves.

Conversations Matter
A practical online resource to support safe and effective community discussions about suicide.

Supporting someone in the workplace at risk of suicide fact sheet
This beyondblue resource provides guidance for managers on supporting a direct report, including their return to work after a suicide attempt.