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 workmates 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.
- 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 service 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.
Supporting others after a workmates suicide
The suicide of a colleague can have a profound emotional effect in the workplace, and it's important for you and your co-workers to support each other. Some people may struggle with guilt and unanswered questions about what happened and what more they could have done to help.
Consider talking with a counsellor to help you cope with the suicide. Your employer is likely to provide counselling through your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If not, speak to your GP to get a referral or call the Beyond Blue Support Service for information about mental health professionals in your local area.
Supporting someone who has lost a friend of family member to suicide
The loss of a loved one by suicide is often shocking, painful and unexpected. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it harder to talk about, and those that lose someone to suicide may feel like they're being judged. There are a number of things you can do to support a colleague who has lost someone to suicide.
Beyond Blue has more information on how to support someone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide.
For more information on how to talk to someone impacted by suicide, visit Conversations Matter.
How can I help?
In this series of videos, people share their experience of losing a loved one, and how their colleagues and managers supported them.
Emma shares some of the ways colleagues looked out for her, after her teenage son took his own life.
Tiana talks about going back to work following her best friend's suicide, as well as some tips for providing support.
Leigh returned to work soon after his dad took his own life. He reflects on what employers can do to help someone impacted by suicide.
Courtney talks about how her HR manager supported her after losing her brother to suicide. Checking in and having a conversation can make a huge difference to the person grieving, helping them feel connected and supported.
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Access to crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services, telephone and chat services.
- Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467
Free, nationwide telephone and online counselling for anyone affected by suicide.
- Conversations Matter
Practical online resource to support safe and effective community discussions about suicide.
A suicide safety planning app that allows people experiencing suicidal thoughts to create a personalised plan and help them stay safe.
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 resolved.
- Supporting someone in the workplace at risk of suicide fact sheet (PDF, 4pg, 346KB)
This Beyond Blue resource provides guidance for managers on supporting a direct report, including their return to work after a suicide attempt.
- Managing bereavement, grief and loss
This e-learning module by SuperFriend equips employees and employers with the skills and confidence to support themselves and workmates experiencing loss
Suicide prevention - information for managers