Psychological Wellbeing: Suicidal Thoughts and Self-Harm

Psychological Wellbeing: Suicidal Thoughts and Self-Harm

With suicide rates remaining at high levels, mental health and worker wellbeing is increasingly on the radar for businesses.

Studies show early intervention and mental health support are essential to preventing suicide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that there were 2,866 deaths by suicide in 2016 – a slight decrease from a 10-year high of 3,027 in 2015.

The most common mental health disorders among workers are depression, substance misuse, anxiety disorders, and work-related stress.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, March, 2016

For every death by suicide, it’s estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives – around 85,980 a year. Around 13,545 workers engage in non-fatal suicidal behaviour each year, with 2,303 resulting in full incapacity and 11,242 needing a short absence from work.

Key statistics:

  • For the first time in 2015, over 3,000 Australians died from suicide in just one year.

  • High-risk demographics include males between 30 and 54, and females between 45 and 49.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to non-Indigenous people.

  • There has been an increase in suicide deaths for females between 15 and 19.

  • Construction workers are a specific high-risk demographic.

The Ripple Effect

It’s not just immediate family and close friends of a person who has died from suicide who are affected. In the study, The Ripple Effect: Understanding the Exposure and Impact of Suicide in Australia, it is revealed that the effects of suicide can reach further in the community than you may think.

Key statistics:
  • 89% of survey respondents reported they had been exposed to at least one suicide attempt.

  • 85% reported they had been exposed to a suicide death.

  • 2% reported attempting suicide themselves.

  • 32% of respondents were “very close” to the person who died.

  • 37% reported the death had significant and devastating effects that they continue to experience.

  • Most common reported losses were of friends, acquaintances, and brothers.

This study demonstrates the effects of suicide on the wider community, including workplaces.

An Increasing Need for Suicide-Prevention Initiatives

Other research published in BMC Public Health suggests the need for suicide-prevention initiatives to take an industry-wide focus and address suicide at three levels:

  1. Primary level to reduce risk factors for suicide and promote protective factors

  2. Secondary level to ensure people are supported and able to access help when they need it

  3. Tertiary level to providing treatment for those at acute risk and rehabilitation back into work.

Stigma and fear are reasons behind a lack of help-seeking, particularly among males with respect to health problems. Interestingly, it was colleagues at work that played an important supportive role in listening, advising, and comforting the workers before they took their own lives. This finding supports the idea of the potential for these people to act as ‘gatekeepers’.

Gatekeepers are people who are able to identify, provide support for, and connect those at risk of suicide with ongoing professional care. Utilising people in the workplace in a gate-keeping role would require equipping them with specific training in mental health first aid, at the very least.

Pedro Diaz from the Workplace Mental Health Institute notes a lack of information for businesses to ‘future proof’ and proactively prevent suicide attempts. He suggests that as managers:

You need information as to the state of your workforce. It’s also a human problem. It impacts the productivity of a team – it’s going to operate in a sluggish way.

Pedro Diaz, Founder, Workplace Mental Health Institute


‘All of Me’ – A Proactive Approach to Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Chandler Macleod partnered with Tap into Safety and All of Me, an e-mental health application, to launch a module, Suicidal Thoughts and Self-Harm, following previous modules, Organisational Change and Burnout, Alcohol and Depression, and Relationship Breakdown.

We were very conscious of not leading in with this particular module, despite its commissioning being at the core of why we launched our All of Me program.

Familiarising our employees with the application through less emotive topics and triggers of depression, anxiety and stress, was a very deliberate strategy in building up to this topic.

The All of Me app takes a proactive approach, engaging the user in animated scenarios to build awareness of symptoms and responses to poor mental health in others (and themselves). The “gamification” of this app encourages the user to suggest solutions during the animated scenarios and participate in a self-assessment.

Chandler Macleod was an early adopter of the use of this online platform for monitoring mental health, and the first commercial business and recruiter in Australia to use this platform. We have been shortlisted as a 2018 finalist in the Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association’s (RSCA) Awards in the area of safety and risk management for our proactive adoption of All of Me and collaboration with Tap into Safety and Edith Cowan University to provide results and analysis of the All of Me mental health application.

Respondents showed a high-level agreement that they felt All of Me had increased their awareness of the importance of addressing mental health behaviour and increased their knowledge and understanding of mental health behaviour.

Quentin Hearn, OHS Manager, Chandler Macleod Group

To learn more about the All of Me e-mental health tool and how it can cultivate a proactive approach to mental health and suicide prevention in your business, contact Chandler Macleod today.

View the first article in our series: Psychological Wellbeing: Closing the Gap

Written by Gary Whittaker – General Manager – Staffing Services WA, SA & NT, Chandler Macleod Group

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