Saving lives at work: The value of Suicide First Aid

Saving lives at work: The value of Suicide First Aid

20 Sep 2023

This informal CPD article, ‘Saving lives at work: The value of Suicide First Aid training’, was provided by Champs Consulting, who are a Suicide First Aid training provider who can help you build a team of first responders to support positive mental health within your organisation.

Every year, on 10th September, organisations around the world raise awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day. This awareness day is dedicated to encouraging long-term action for suicide prevention.

As with any awareness day, it only works if the action extends beyond the day itself. Caring for your employees’ wellbeing and advocating for their mental health needs should be ingrained in your ongoing business activities, not a one-day activity. After all, mental health problems don’t stop the second someone enters “work mode”.

Understanding how to support people experiencing mental health crises can help prevent suicide. A simple conversation with someone in a mental health crisis can be life-saving. Yet, without the right guidance or approach, it can also be daunting and potentially harmful. Keep reading to learn how you can have open, supportive conversations about suicide and do your part to protect the wellbeing of your team.

Talking about suicide: what you say matters

The words you choose and how you use them can make a world of difference when you’re talking about suicide. Conversations are powerful. Understanding the intricacies of how to have supportive conversations with someone you are worried about could be the difference between life and loss.

8 tips for having open, supportive conversations about suicide

Having conversations about suicide can be challenging. But, those conversations can be essential in providing support and potentially saving lives. Approach these conversations with compassion, empathy, and a willingness to connect those in crisis with the support they need.

As Suicide First Aid training providers, here are our tips for having open, supportive conversations about suicide.

Don’t say committed

The word “committed” carries negative connotations. It implies that suicide is a crime and carries an element of blame. Up until 1961, it was illegal to die by suicide. While the Suicide Act 1961 decriminalised death by suicide in the UK, it is sadly still illegal in many countries around the world.

When speaking about the sensitive topic of suicide, use neutral language such as “died by suicide” to remove any stigma or negative associations.

Avoid sharing harmful content

Refrain from sharing any content that talks about suicide or self-harm in an unsafe manner. This type of content can be extremely harmful to vulnerable people. If you see harmful or unsafe content related to suicide or self-harm, please report it. You can report harmful content to the content host (e.g. the social media platform it was published on) or via the Report Harmful Content website1.

Ask direct questions

If you are worried someone may be experiencing mental health crises, ask them directly about their thoughts and feelings related to suicide. Being direct in your approach can open up a conversation and let them express themselves.

Asking direct questions can make it easier to get someone the support they need. When you ask someone “Are you having suicidal thoughts?”, you offer them the chance to answer openly and honestly.

Validate their feelings

Show empathy when speaking to someone about suicide. Don’t diminish or dismiss their feelings or experiences. Phrases such as “don’t do anything stupid” can do more harm than good by invalidating the seriousness of their feelings. Let them know that you hear what they have to say and that you take their feelings seriously.

Don’t be judgemental

Everyone’s struggles are unique. Unless someone tells us, we never fully know what they are going through — and, even then, we can’t possibly put ourselves in their shoes. Avoid passing judgement over someone’s experiences or feelings. Instead, listen without judgement and help them get support.

Signpost towards support

If someone opens up to you about suicidal thoughts or tendencies, signpost them towards receiving support. Use the conversation as an opportunity to signpost them towards local mental health resources, crisis hotlines, or professionals who can support them.

Active listening

When having conversations about suicide, actively listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting them or offering solutions straight away. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them.

Give them your full attention. Maintain eye contact, focus on what they are saying, and please put your phone away. It might take some time before they feel ready to open up so be patient and give them time to speak.

Be hopeful

Use hopeful language that reinforces that things can get better. Where possible, share sources of support, hope, and recovery.

Sharing stories of hope and using hopeful language can help them feel less alone in their struggles. It shows them that it is possible to overcome what they are currently experiencing and could encourage them to seek support.

Show empathy when speaking to someone about suicide

How you can reduce stigma around suicide at work

Learning how to have supportive conversations about suicide is only one step. Sadly, you can’t have a conversation then pat yourself on the back and call it a day. Support needs to be provided at every level of your company to create a holistic culture of positive mental health. There are many ways you can reduce stigma around suicide at work. By reducing stigma, you can make your workplace a safe place for people to openly share their experiences and seek support.

Establish a wellbeing initiative

Don’t leave wellbeing up to chance. Implement a wellbeing initiative that addresses employee wellbeing and mental health. This initiative should be developed with your organisational and employee needs in mind. A holistic wellbeing strategy allows your organisation to work on the root cause of any wellbeing challenges, as opposed to only focusing on the initial presenting factors.

Train employees in Suicide First Aid

Equip your employees with the skills to support their colleagues in times of crisis. Offer Suicide First Aid training to ensure your team understand how to intervene with people at risk of suicide. Suicide First Aid Training helps minimise stigma around suicide and allows your team to spot the signs of mental health crises so they can take preventative action.

Create a culture of positive wellbeing

Your workplace culture can have a bigger impact on wellbeing than you may think. The culture can influence your employees’ sense of belonging, happiness, and safety at work. Foster a workplace culture that prioritises positive mental health and wellbeing. Your workplace culture should make employees feel safe talking openly and candidly about their wellbeing. It should also be ingrained in your culture that employees can seek wellbeing resources and support.

Be inclusive

Inclusivity should run through the core of your organisation. Taking an inclusive approach means no-one gets left behind. From policies to processes, make sure your organisation is inclusive for everyone. This layer of inclusivity will allow people to feel comfortable being authentic and telling you how they really feel. Ensure all company communications, policies, and initiatives use safe, inclusive and respectful language when discussing mental health to encourage people to be open and seek support.

Address harmful behaviour

Take swift and appropriate action against any harmful behaviour or attitudes related to mental health stigma, bullying, or harassment. Make sure you have a process for addressing harmful behaviour and actively encourage employees to report such behaviour. Be transparent about the consequences for those who engage in harmful behaviour or attitudes and make sure you enforce your expectations. There’s no room for exceptions when it comes to harmful behaviour.

Final thoughts — increase awareness, reduce stigma and save a life

Remember, people don’t leave their mental health struggles at the door when starting work. It is important that your company offers support for those experiencing poor mental health. So, put wellbeing at the heart of your organisation. Putting appropriate wellbeing measures in place and ensuring your team understands how to have open, supportive conversations around suicide can be life-saving.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Champs Consulting, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses, and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.


1 Report Harmful Content website:

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