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Do not be afraid to talk about suicide at work

Expert tips


Having clear procedures at the workplace when somebody gives voice to suicidal feelings can make a huge difference to anyone going through a difficult period. It also creates peace of mind at the workplace as employees and managers know what to do and where to get support.

Each year, around 1,300 people die of suicide and according to statistics from the Swedish Public Health Agency, one in three of us contemplate suicide at some point in our lives. A thought doesn’t need to mean somebody is planning to take their own life, but it is a clear sign that something is not right. Listening, asking questions and talking about mental health and suicide at work are all important steps in keeping somebody from going from thought to action.

“Many believe that talking about suicidal thoughts will make it happen, but putting difficult situations into words can actually reduce the risk,” says Henrik Lindgren, Psychologist at Falck.

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Coming into contact with somebody who is in a really bad place can stir up many different emotions in us

Procedures around suicide threats

As a psychologist, Henrik’s work involves conversational support, manager counselling, crisis support and training within mental health, among other things. He meets people who have come in contact with suicidal individuals in one way or another. Sometimes it is the employer or their employees who require support when a coworker is in a bad place, while other times an employee’s duties may put them in contact with others who express that they no longer wish to continue living.

“It is hard to know what do when we receive this type of information. Employers can help their employees by putting clear procedures in place on what we can and what we must do if we come into contact with someone who is in a really bad place,” says Henrik.

Workplace procedures serve to provide employees with clarity and peace of mind, and the Work Environment Act even requires employers whose staff take on duties that are especially mentally taxing to ensure that support is available to draw on.  

“The procedures will look different depending on the organisation. In the case of a white-collar organisation where staff may be affected by this issue through their work, it is important to identify where and when this may happen, how to prevent the risks and how best to train staff to handle and deal with different situations. It is also important to have functioning crisis support in place in the event that the worst should happen.

Procedures on suicide and suicide threats should contain:

  • who employees should contact if they discover that somebody is having suicidal thoughts,
  • what roles within the organisation the employee can contact in this instance,
  • what mandates and rights the employee has in regards to further contact with other authorities,
  • information on any confidentiality rules at the workplace which prevent the employee from taking things further and what they should do instead,
  • who employees should refer people to if they are in a bad place,
  • what responsibilities the employee does and does not have,
  • what to do should the worst occur.

Talk about mental health with employees

When it comes to employee health and internal procedures, it is important that there is knowledge in place around mental health at the workplace, what signals to watch out for and how we can talk about these issues at work. Normalising mental illness makes it easier for people to talk and this is an important step in preventing suicide.

“Coming into contact with somebody who is in a really bad place can stir up many different emotions in us, but we can really help by having the courage to step up, listen and show that we care. Ask direct and open questions and reiterate that nobody should have to feel so bad they feel life isn’t worth living.

It is important to try and encourage the person to seek help. Ask if you can speak to a relative of theirs or if you can go with them to see a psychiatrist.

Preventing suicide at the workplace


  1. Don’t be afraid to speak about it. Asking questions or talking about the subject won’t awaken dormant thoughts or make the matter worse. Don’t be afraid to seek clarity around what a person is feeling or if they have been having suicidal thoughts.
  2. Knowledge about mental illness Provide training to the organisation about mental health and illness and how to approach mental illness.
  3. Reduce the risk factors If an employee is not in a good place, we should identify the risk factors based on their individual circumstances. In the case of an office clerk, look at the risk situations in their work and what the procedures are.
  4. Clear procedures Have clear and accessible procedures in place on how to act and react when somebody expresses suicidal thoughts.
  5. Crisis procedures If you learn that somebody has taken their own life, it is important that you contact professional crisis support. Many different feelings of shame and blame may arise and these need to be dealt with in a secure environment.