Suicide prevention and postvention

Information on the impact of suicide and how employers can best support their staff through preventative and postventative measures.

8 September 2022

The web page provides information on the impact of suicide and how employers can best support their staff through preventative and postventative measures.

The rates of deaths by suicide are climbing across the world:

Suicide does not discriminate and affects our NHS staff:

  • Doctors are twice as likely to take their own lives compared with people working in other professions.
  • Nurses are four times as likely to take their own lives than people working in any other profession in the UK.
  • Female nurses are more likely to take their own lives than their male counterparts.

According to Champion Health, the current cost of living crisis has increased financial pressures on staff, and employees experiencing financial stress have been found to be twice as likely to experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Suicide is preventable and employers play a crucial role in suicide prevention. People in work spend about one third of their lives at their place of employment. Colleagues and line managers can provide an important social and emotional support network, built on shared experiences.

In 2022, the Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC) published their Work-related suicide evidence review.  WHEC's reports cover evidence reviews and position papers giving their independent expert opinion on key topics for workplace health.  

Alongside a strong organisational suicide prevention strategy, it is vital that employers include a suicide postvention strategy into their management of the crisis, supporting those staff affected by suicide and experiencing trauma, as well as those experiencing bereavement due to death by suicide of a colleague or loved one.

How can organisations address the issue?

Mental health champions

By implementing mental health champions into your organisation, you can ensure there is a first line of support and signposting available for your staff. Having a supportive conversation at the right time can often prevent a tragic loss. Ensuring that the knowledge and experience of your champions are up to date and they are confident to face potentially difficult scenarios can help ensure an effective service. Raise their profiles by embedding them into the employee induction process and enabling them to take part in staff network conversations, it's important that staff are aware of who they can contact if they need support.

Upskill your line managers

Ensure your line managers have the right training and skills to spot signs of suicidal thoughts and effectively sign-post to appropriate avenues. Read about how you can upskill your managers to support the mental health of your staff. Encouraging compassionate leadership can help staff open up and beat the stigma around mental health conversations at work.

  • Every year on 10 September, the world comes together to raise awareness of suicide and highlight the actions we can take to try and prevent deaths by suicide. You can find out more about this day on the Samaritans' website

  • Support available for employers

    Support available for staff at risk of suicide

    • Bereavement support line – NHS staff have access to a confidential bereavement support line, operated by Hospice UK and free to access from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week where they can speak to a fully qualified and trained bereavement specialist. Call 0300 303 4434.
    • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men, call 0800 58 58 58 from 5pm to midnight everyday or visit the webchat page.
    • Mind – helpline for employers on supporting staff who have suffered loss by suicide
    • Papyrus – for people under 35, call 0800 068 41 41 from Monday to Friday 9am to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays 2pm to 10pm.
    • Samaritans – for everyone, call 24-hour helpline 116 123. During the COVID-19 crisis, NHS staff can freely access a confidential staff support line operated by Samaritans from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week by calling 0800 069 6222 or text FRONTLINE to 85258 for support 24/7 via text.
    • Worried about someone else? See the Samaritan’s tips on how to support someone you’re worried about and Rethink’s advice on how to support someone with suicidal thoughts.
    • Stay alive app – NHS and social care staff have free access to the Stay Alive app which aims to provide help to people with existing mental health concerns, suicidal thoughts, and those struggling in self isolation. It provides information to help colleagues stay safe, including advice for people concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide.
    • Support after suicide partnership- ‘Help is at hand’ is a resource for people bereaved through suicide or other unexplained death, and for those helping them. Survivors of bereavement by suicide- information of suicide postvention and supporting the bereaved.
  • Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

    The trust is planning to train over 200 mental health first aiders (approximately 10 per cent of the workforce), as the trust feels that this training best fits the model of a community trust. Community trust team members often work in small teams at multiple different locations and can go for long periods of time without direct contact with colleagues. Mental health first aid will enable the organisation to offer wide-reaching cover across its many locations, for those who may be experiencing mental health concerns including initial support for those who may be thinking about taking their own life.

    University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group

    The group comprises, Northampton General Hospital (NGH) and Kettering General Hospital (KGH). The group developed a suicide risk awareness campaign aimed at all staff. The campaign empowers staff to start a conversation and offer support when they see someone struggling.