West Midlands Combined Authority has held a webinar to help local businesses handle the sensitive issue of suicide.
More than 600 representatives from West Midlands businesses registered for the event, despite organisers expecting around just 60 to register.
The webinar, entitled Suicide: Let’s talk about prevention, was run by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Thrive programme, and the 615 registrations were more than any previous Thrive event has received.
Suicide is the largest cause of death for those men aged under 45 and all deaths are preventable.
The event covered topics including how to spot if someone is at risk of attempting suicide, how to prevent situations escalating, and whether UK-GDPR prevents an employer from assisting at a time of crisis.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands said: “The number of organisations which registered for this event highlights that need for information and help within our business community.
“The pandemic has taken its a toll on the mental health of the region and employers want to support the good mental health of their employees, which is why our Thrive programme is so important.
“Events such as this and others run by our Thrive programme show how we can address mental health and wellbeing challenges in the workplace, and in turn support businesses to contribute to our vision of a fairer, greener and healthier West Midlands.”
Held on 4 March it was the latest free event for local bosses run by the Thrive at Work which promotes employee health and wellbeing.
Government figures show that in 2019, there were 5,691 suicides in England and Wales – more than one in every 10,000 people. It’s estimated that every 90 minutes someone in the UK ends their own life and many of these people are not known to the health services and have kept their struggles hidden from friends and family.
The 90-minute webinar provided bosses and senior leaders the chance to speak to a panel of experts in the field of mental health. The event was hosted by Thrive At Work accreditation coordinator Andrew Rudge and on the panel was Evan Grant, who co-founded the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust after losing his son Cameron to suicide when he was 21 and in his third year of studying geology at university. After the webinar he said: "I was especially pleased that we discussed how to spot signs that a colleague may be at risk of suicide, and some of the ways everyone can help.
“We can all ask: ‘how are you today? Are you really OK?’”
Also on the panel was Doreen Till employment retention team manager of Black Country Healthcare NHS Trust, Sean Russell, WMCA’s Covid 19 Lead and Elaine Woodward a suicide prevention programme manager who works with the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health. She said: “The majority of those that die by suicide are not under the care of mental health services so to prevent deaths by suicide we all need to and can play a role in reducing suicide. We can all do this by providing hope to those considering suicide as they don’t want to die - they want to end their pain and the burden they feel they are imposing of their loved ones.
“I would urge businesses to consider developing mental health policies, reviewing their workplace using HSE stress templates and promoting healthy workplaces were staff can feel comfortable talking about their mental health.”
Interim Head of Thrive, Tatum Matharu said: “The huge amount of interest in this event highlights the need for more information on this topic. As organisations adjust to post-pandemic business conditions we have been extending our workplace wellbeing accreditation programme by introducing an entry level to help companies become better focused on wellbeing and drive improvements in the workplace and home working environment.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe WMCA portfolio lead for wellbeing and leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “Employers can play a crucial role when someone reaches a place of personal internal crisis.
“Thrive at Work has already helped many organisations enhance wellbeing at work in order to grow a healthier, happier workforce. The number of organisations that signed up for the webinar demonstrates that the Thrive team are providing guidance on topics that people may find difficult to talk about, but need information.”
For further details about Thrive at Work visit https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/thrive/thrive-at-work/