New research released by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health highlights opportunities for suicide prevention programs in the workplace

13 December 2016

New research released today by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health (HIMH) examines the views and attitudes of media and public relations students and professionals on the reporting of suicide.

This information is integral to reducing the stigma surrounding suicide and encouraging help-seeking behaviour in the wider community. By understanding the views and attitudes of those in media professions, it can inform how organisations such as the HIMH working on the Mindframe National Media Initiative can provide guidance to communicators and demonstrate the important role they play in suicide prevention work in Australia.

The research by the HIMH revealed that more than 60% of journalists are professionally exposed to suicide through their work when interviewing or interacting with someone bereaved or affected by suicide.

Workplace exposure to suicide is not surprising as suicide remains the leading cause of death in working age adults (ABS, 2015). Media professionals are no different when thinking about suicide prevention in the workplace. Not only are they informing the wider public about suicide, but for every suicide they report on in their line of work, they too may be personally impacted.

This is supported by research undertaken by University of New England in collaboration with Suicide Prevention Australia, which found the impact of suicide is much more pervasive than first thought, with 89% of people surveyed knowing at least one person who had attempted suicide and 85% knowing someone who had died. Furthermore, research from the US has found that for every suicide, 135 people are impacted.

With so many individuals potentially impacted by suicide, we should be planning support structures within our workplaces that assume individuals may have been touched by suicide. Suicide prevention education and awareness in the workplace can be a valuable tool to promote discussion and provide information to access supports.

Upskilling staff by building capacity for individuals to provide support to colleagues in need, is a valuable step in preventing suicides. Complementing this with a workplace suicide prevention education program to raise awareness and provide information to individuals so they can access support enables help-seeking. We do need to take suicide seriously in our communities and the workplace is an important place to start.

A number of our Member Organisations offer workplace education and awareness tools such as:

  • Workplace suicide prevention resources
  • Support after a suicide
  • Workplace and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Gatekeeper training to upskill staff members to recognise the signs and assist with directing those in need to the right supports through safeTALK and ASIST training.

Read the Work and Suicide Prevention Position Statement for some points for discussion and recommendations for suicide safe workplaces.

What can you do as an individual? As a friend, family member, community member, neighbour, work mate, we can all show compassion and care to those who may be impacted by suicide, including people who are bereaved and individuals who are suicidal themselves. It may also be interesting to think about how your personal context and experience manifests itself in your work and how you take care of your own wellbeing if you have been impacted by suicide.

If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out.

The following services offer free crisis and counselling telephone and online support:

Lifeline Phone: 13 11 14  www.lifeline.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service Phone: 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Kids Helpline Phone: 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au

MensLine Australia Phone: 1300 78 99 78  www.menslineaus.org.au

beyondblue Phone: 1300 22 46 36 www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support  

For a more comprehensive list of services please visit www.suicidepreventionaust.org and click on the ‘Get Help’ button on our home page.