Suicide is the single biggest killer in men under 45 in the UK, where three in every four suicides are male. Figures by Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggest that men in skilled trades have a 35 per cent higher risk of suicide. But why is this important issue not spoken about enough in workplaces? And what are companies doing to help those suffering in silence?

What are the main contributors

Not speaking up seems to be the main issue;in the UK, women are more likely to be upfront and speak to a specialist or friend about their struggles with mental health – the same can’t be said about men of the same age.

For most, the desperation to succeed is overwhelming. Being successful comes with its trials – intense working hours, pressure from bosses, and other obstacles along the way can be difficult for some to handle.

Christopher Foster, the former British CEO of Ulva company, took his own life after killing his wife and daughters at his home in 2009; his assets had been frozen and he was about to lose his mansion.

In the same year, Adolf Merckle, a German billionaire and industrialist also committed suicide. He was once ranked one of the 100 richest men in the world.

During the financial crisis –of 2009, Merckle lost millions in his company Phoenix Pharmahandel and the company’s shares fell drastically. He was said to have been struggling to cope with the guilt over what he felt was “failing his family”.

French fund manager Thierry de la Villehucget also took his own life in New York after his firm, Access International Advisors, lost nearly £1 billion of clients’ money.

Another contributor is mental health – mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain. In fact, one in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace, with 19.8 per cent of those being men.

In 2016, there were 5,668 suicides in the UK: 75 per cent were men and 25 per cent women. This extraordinary fact could prove the way that women are much more likely to seek help, therefore not carrying out their suicidal thoughts.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), people who work in jobs that require over-working, pressure or responsibility suffer from mental health conditions.

What should businesses do to avoid this

Promoting well-being in the workplace is key. It costs organisations up to 80p per employee per year, and companies can save up to £8 billion per year when employers have better mental health.

Employers should try to:

  • Help employees manage work-related stress
  • Use surveys, risk-assessments, questionnaires, seminars, workshops and other techniques to assess how employers are dealing with stress
  • Assist in simplifying risks and stress
  • Tackle workplace bullying, exclusion and victimisation
  • Extend support and psychological health services

Let’s talk about it

In a report by Business in the Community (BITC) – CEO of Unilever Paul Polman said: “It is important for an organisation’s approach to mental health and wellbeing to incorporate a suicide prevention strategy”

He continued to say it is also significant to have people who are more senior in the workplace speaking and sharing their stories and battles.

“We need more CEOs to show leadership on this issue, and to make sure that they have action plans in place that address mental ill-health and wellbeing at work,” he stresses.

Discussing the collaboration between Public Health England, Samaritans, and Business in the Community, which has created an online resource to support employees by coming up with a strategy to help prevent suicide, Polman said: “It will give you the confidence to begin the most difficult conversation at work: ‘Let’s talk about suicide.’ Your leadership could save a life.”

Where to seek help

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) are an organisation that helps men with mental health issues and it has recently launched CALM Companies. They offer expert help, materials and training to encourage those living with mental health and wellbeing issues. CALM Companies also offer a help line and webchat service; the organisation is designed to help corporate businesses provide the tools they need to support their employees.

CALM suggest that 81 per cent of men in employment see their job as a vital part of their life and self-confidence.

Andrew Brown, corporate partnerships director at Campaign Against Living Miserably said: “Given how much time we spend in the workplace, it’s crucial we feel comfortable and supported by employers in what can be a stressful and high-pressured environment.”

Suicide is disheartening and what makes it worse is when it can be prevented – people are always encouraged to seek help.

You can contact CALM on: 

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