3 things HR leader can do to identify and support someone who may be suicidal
Worldwide, since 2003, we all are observing September 10th as ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the most preventable form of death. However, despite it’s preventability, suicide claimed nearly 1.4 lakh Indian lives in a year as per the last report released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Shockingly, Indian corporate employees account for almost 10% of these deaths.
But if there’s one thing the pandemic times have demonstrated, it’s India Inc’s willingness to learn and implement a gamut of emotional wellness initiatives. There are high recommendatons about at least for all managers and team leaders is to go for ‘Suicide Prevention Training’ - a specialised training that teaches one how to notice the signs of suicidality, how to approach the person to talk to them about it, and how to support them in the right way. Given the stigma that the topic of suicide holds, awareness about it is very low. This makes such training all the more important.
So, how can you as a colleague, friend identify the signs of suicidality and support in a working setup?
1. Understand the warning signs
- Changes in mood - you notice changes in their moods, such as extreme mood swings, extremely positive one day to deeply disturbed the next or experiencing intense bouts of anger
- Self-loathing & Self-hatred - They express feelings of being worthless, a burden to all, & a sense that others will be better without them.
- Withdrawal from Social Contact - Increased self-isolation; withdrawing from friends and family and loved ones. Desire to be left alone.
- Change in Eating & Sleeping Habits - There’s a noticeable change in their eating and sleeping habits. You may notice this in the form of a sudden loss or gain of weight, and increased grogginess.
- Recent Trauma or Crisis - Any major life crisis like major illness or death of a loved one, divorce, and break-ups, or financial crisis can also lead to suicidal tendencies.
2. Approach with Sensitivity
- Choose a private setting to have this conversation with them
- Make a certain time to talk with them and ensure that you are totally in the present.
- Ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts - There’s a common misconception that if you ask someone directly about their suicidal thoughts, it will push them to the brink. Professionals recommend asking this directly. Prepare yourself before you speak, don’t express shock and do not panic.
- Be there for them - If you spot signs of someone being suicidal, do not brush it off. Never belittle their problems or compare them to yours or others’. Avoid blaming them for the problem or creating any kind of confrontations.
- Create a safety plan - Involve others who can keep the person say and make plans for life, in the short term. By extending your concern in a timely manner, you can help them before things get too unbearable for them.
3. Encourage them to get help
Tell the person that you respect their privacy, but that they should seek professional help and speak with someone who can assess their issue objectively and without bias or judgement. Provide them with assistance by arranging for them to visit a therapist and even offering to accompany them to meet one.
Most importantly, get trained in suicide prevention yourself, and facilitate it for the rest of your organization too.