Suicide is not an easy topic to discuss or one that can be treated readily. It is an unfortunate aspect of modern life and is likely to rear its ugly head on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. Employers should be aware of the potential within their workforce, whether they be working at home or in the office, as well as the damage that any suicide wreaks on families, friends and colleagues. According to one confirmed account, a CEO appeared at the door of a local church distressed that he didn’t know how to tell his colleagues that a much-respected member of staff had taken his own life unexpectedly. We could all be in that place.
World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year. The event is significant and relevant with the recent release by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of suicide registrations for England and Wales in 2019. The figures are disturbing and will almost certainly be exceeded when the figures for 2020 are compiled.
Of the 5,691 suicides registered in 2019, around three-quarters were among men (4,303 deaths). This is up 5.7% on the year before. Following a consistent trend going back to the mid-1990s, men are around three times as likely to die by suicide than women. The male suicide rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 was the highest for two decades but for females the rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000, the highest since 2004.
It is middle-aged men, aged 45 to 49, that have the highest age-specific suicide rate (25.5 deaths per 100,000 males); for females, the age group with the highest rate was 50 to 54 years (7.4 deaths per 100,000). Men in the building and construction trades are particularly prone to taken their own life, prompting fears that some are too proud to seek help.
As for regional variations, while suicides in men in the southeast increased significantly in the ONS figures, with London having the lowest rate, the highest rate was in Yorkshire and the Humber.
In terms of methods used, jumping or lying in front of a moving object like a train constituted 4.5% of the total number of suicides in 2019. Accordingly, the Rail Industry Association, in partnership with Network Rail and the Samaritans, is hosting a webinar on 10 September to look at what measures the industry can take to prevent suicides, what rail suppliers can do to support those efforts, and how we can look after our own health and well-being and support colleagues with theirs too. Registration details for the webinar can be found here.
Resilience First has produced a guide on emotional resilience for businesses dealing with major incidents and trauma such as suicides.
Advice can also be obtained from the Samaritans.