Suicide Prevention During the Cost-of-Living Crisis
With the cost-of-living in the UK soaring, putting more and more people at risk of in-work poverty, the moral and business case for supporting employee mental health and financial wellbeing has never been stronger. The cost-of-living crisis has left many individuals and families struggling to meet basic needs such as housing, energy, food and fuel. The resulting financial strain, job insecurity, and overwhelming debt can lead to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and a sense of being trapped, which are risk factors for suicide. Suicide and talking about money are both deeply taboo topics. The cost-of-living crisis has had a severe impact on mental health, with nearly half of UK adults (48%) saying that their household’s current financial situation is currently negatively impacting their mental health1.
It is important to appreciate that individual circumstances and experiences are unique, and suicide is a deeply complex issue. Preventing suicide during these challenging times requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses understanding risk factors, providing accessible mental health support, and fostering a caring and supportive environment.
Financial stress can arise from various factors, including low wages, job insecurity, overwhelming debt, and the inability to meet financial obligations. This stress significantly impacts an individual’s mental wellbeing and increases the likelihood of suicidal thoughts or actions. The constant worry about finances, the pressure to provide for oneself or family, and the fear of losing one’s job can contribute to significant psychological distress. Moreover, the stigma associated with talking about financial difficulties may prevent individuals from seeking help or support, further exacerbating their vulnerability. People facing financial stress may experience heightened stress, anxiety and depression, further intensifying their mental health challenges. Inadequate access to mental health services during the NHS crisis can also contribute to the risk.
Together, we can break the stigma and save lives by taking proactive steps towards suicide prevention.Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, BITC.
How employers can address and mitigate the risks of suicide
Addressing the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on suicide risk requires a comprehensive approach. Employers play a crucial role in addressing and mitigating the suicide risk for employees experiencing financial stress. They can promote a supportive work environment that fosters open communication, empathy and compassion. Implementing employee assistance programmes that offer counselling services, financial education, and resources for managing debt can provide valuable support to employees in need. Employers should pay the Real Living Wage, benefits, and opportunities for career progression to alleviate financial strain among their employees. Encouraging work-life balance, providing flexible working, and promoting employee wellbeing can help reduce the impact of financial stress on mental health.
To break the stigma surrounding mental health and discussing financial concerns, employers need to foster an open culture where it is normal to talk about mental health and employees feel confident to reach out for help without fearing negative repercussions. It is crucial to provide training and equip managers with the skills needed to respond effectively to signs of suicidal thoughts and to be able to direct colleagues to appropriate support. Taking positive and practical steps to support employees can make a real difference in saving lives. By addressing systemic causes of poor mental health and financial stress, employers can play a significant role in suicide prevention during the cost-of-living crisis.
The Business in the Community (BITC) Suicide Prevention Toolkit helps senior leaders, line managers, HR and occupational health professionals identify employees who may have suicidal feelings and gives practical advice on how to deal with a crisis situation. This toolkit will help embed suicide prevention strategies in your organisation’s health and wellbeing policies, guide your approach to supporting those at risk and act as a resource to provide support across your workforce. BITC’s Cost-of-Living Action Plan for Businesses details 12 calls to action to support you to be faster, braver and bolder in your response to the ongoing crisis.
Suicide prevention requires a compassionate and comprehensive approach. Employers must prioritise mental health and wellbeing, provide support systems, and foster open dialogue to create a safe and supportive environment. Together, we can break the stigma and save lives by taking proactive steps towards suicide prevention.
Fairer, greener, together
WHAT IF NO-ONE WAS LEFT BEHIND?
1 Business in the Community (BITC) YouGov survey Oct 2022