World Mental Health Day: One in four employees experience suicidal thoughts at work

Employees in an office (PA)
Employees in an office (PA)

Businesses have been urged to ramp up mental health provisions for staff as new figures revealed that one in four employees experience suicidal thoughts at work.

A study by suicide prevention charity R;pple also found that over a fifth (21 per cent) of employees do not feel comfortable enough to talk to their employer about their mental health.

R;pple is software designed to present a visual prompt when a person searches for harmful keywords relating to self-harm or suicide online. Since its launch last year, the firm claims to have intercepted 3,300 suicide-related searches.

About 1.2 million people search for ways to take their own life every month, according to the company.

The firm has called on legislators and workplaces to make suicide prevention training mandatory on World Mental Health Day on Monday, arguing that it should be treated with the same urgency as fire safety. A person is 62 times more likely to take their own life than die in a fire, it said.

Almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of those surveyed said they felt their workplace mental health policies could be better while a further fifth (20 per cent) said they saw them as a “tick box” exercise. A quarter (25 per cent) admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts while at work.

The UK does not monitor, investigate, regulate or legally recognise work-related suicides.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last month revealed that there were 5,583 suicides registered in 2021.

Around three-quarters involved men and boys, while the rate in women and girls under 24 saw its biggest annual increase since records began in 1981.

R;pple ambassador Aaron Willis, star of BBC’s The Apprentice and founder of Vulcan Security, said: “Mental health in the workplace is a momentous issue and should be a priority for businesses across the country. Not only is it a health risk to individuals, but it’s having an impact on the business also, with poor mental health cited as a factor that impacts productivity for one in five employees, contributing to costly levels of presenteeism.”

Jacqui Morrissey, assistant director of research and influencing at Samaritans, last month called for ministers to publish a “national suicide prevention plan” to help bring rates down.

R;pple surveyed 2,000 working British adults as part of the poll.

To mark World Mental Health Day, Londoners and NHS workers shared ways in which they safeguard their own mental health with the Standard.

Femi Gbadamosi, a Peer and Lived Experience Manager at Barnet, Enfield and Haringey (BEH) Mental Health Trust, said: “When I am feeling low, I like to organise one part of my life that I usually just leave on autopilot.

“For example, making the conscious decision to organise my week ahead or checking in with a loved one I don’t always see, for me it’s my mum. That’s what it’s all about being aware of the positives no matter how small in the moment.”

Michelle Grant, Head of Occupational Therapy for Mental Health Integrated Network Teams at West London NHS Trust, works with students at University of West London, specifically from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background. She helps them to develop “coping skills” to help deal with difficul moments.

She said: “One thing that I do in my work is help young people to identify their triggers, things that may be impacting their mental health. We then talk about adopting coping strategies or helpful measures that you can add to your 'mental toolbox' of strategies that help towards your wellbeing and mental health.

“Whether that is keeping connected with your social network or support networks, improving sleep hygiene, engaging in meaningful activities, eating well, engaging in meditation or mindfulness practices - the list goes on. My personal favourites for my own ‘mental toolbox’ are yoga and meditation, which I completed yoga teacher training and a meditation teacher diploma for, eating healthy and watching my favourite shows or comedy stand ups.”

Anyone affected by the issues in this article can call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS’s help for suicidal thoughts webpage.