Responding to suicidality in the workplace

Many professions, including law firms, customer call centres, banks, insurance companies and emergency services respond to people in crisis and who are highly distressed. It is not uncommon for an organisation to be in the situation of responding to a critical situation where a client or colleague is expressing thoughts and feelings of suicide. 

In 2017 there were 3,128 completed suicides, a 9% rise from 2016 (ABS). In most instances, suicidality involves a great deal of ambivalence. It is sometimes thought of as a ‘permanent solution to a temporary problem’. The person experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings or who becomes actively suicidal, is unable to think of an alternative strategy to their problems. In some instances, the person’s situation may not be temporary e.g. chronic illness, disability or other life altering scenarios. 

Misconceptions around suicidality are common, such as those who talk about it will never do it, or the person who threatens suicide is ‘attention seeking’ and it is best to ignore overt or implied threats. 

Responding to expressions of suicidality is stressful and anxiety provoking. People often fear saying the wrong thing and exacerbating distress. 

This training will outline four motivations for suicide, three levels of suicidality, risk factors and predictors, protective factors and guidance in responding to suicidal threats.

The Care – Collaborate – Connect model will be presented (Dr Helen Stallman – Basil Hetzel Institute, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, University South Australia). 

Learning objectives: