How you can help prevent suicide

What you can do to help those who are struggling.

14 September 2020

Each year, one in six Albertans will seriously think about suicide and more than 400 Albertans will die by suicide. With ongoing social distancing and working from home, knowing how to help colleagues who may be struggling is more important than ever.

Take some time to check in with colleagues. Create a safe space, using open, non-judgemental conversations and encourage sharing and expressing emotions. When we model these behaviours it shows that it’s OK to ask for help.

Here are some things you can do if you are worried about a colleague:

  • Pay Attention - Any significant change in behaviour can be a warning sign. Trust your instincts and follow through with action if you have suspicions about someone you know
  • Start a Conversation - Pick a comfortable space for both of you. Mention that you've noticed their behaviour changes, but avoid blaming or shaming.
  • Keep Listening - Ask questions and listen to what they are saying without judgement. Let them know you’re there: “Thanks for telling me. That’s really hard to do." If someone's intentions are unclear, ask: “Are you thinking about suicide?” ­­
  • Stick to Your Role - You’re a colleague, not a counsellor. Encourage them to reach out to others and continue to check in with them after the conversation. You can file a report with the Helping Individuals at Risk Program (HIAR) who will connect them with supports. Contact 911 if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
  • Seek Advice - If you are unsure of what to do next, contact the Workplace Advice Line for professional advice from workplace counsellors.

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership role or not, knowing what to look for and how to respond if someone makes a disclosure to you is crucial. For more information visit the suicide awareness and prevention web page or email org.health@ualberta.ca.