There are many ways to help those thinking about suicide – talking is just one of them
Set your phone alarm to go off in two hours. By the time it rings, another man will have taken his own life somewhere in the UK.
Last Thursday was World Mental Health Day, and this year's focus was suicide. There's a disproportionate prevalence of suicide in the hospitality industry.
Blame the long hours, the pressure of constantly having to deliver top-notch service, the scrutiny that social media brings… One in four of the UK population will face a mental health problem in their lives, and suicide is particularly prevalent among young men.
At HA, we've experienced an unusually large number of cases involving self-harm and sometimes suicide in the past few years and this has galvanised us to act. The only way we're going to arrest this tragic trend is by talking about it.
Our premise is simple. Stigma around talking about mental health challenges is breaking down, but employers can be illequipped to engage in a conversation about suicide; maybe partly because it's still a big taboo, but also because we can be afraid of saying the wrong thing and making the matter worse, or even putting ourselves at risk of somehow ‘getting into trouble'.
To have any chance of reducing the number of suicides in the industry, we need to get comfortable talking about it and hearing about it. We have developed a number of resources to help operators open up the conversation. We'll be adding more in future.
The first resource is our new helpsheet. It's designed to help you spot the signs and behaviours in yourself or others that may point towards suicidal tendencies. It's also there to give you the confidence to get involved in conversations about a very difficult issue. By becoming able to talk about suicidal thoughts with a friend or colleague, you could save a life.
Topics covered include:
- Why people commit suicide
- The types of people most likely to take their own lives
- The links to suicide and addiction
- Warning signs
- Prevention strategies.
As an additional benefit for our Employee Assistance subscribers we have introduced a rapid-access referral programme to swiftly triage cases towards clinical support.
We have also released two new films that are free for you to download from our website. The first is the shocking story of Nyall Brown, a 19-year-old front of house manager from Norfolk who took his own life in 2018. Nyall's father wanted to make the film in the hope that we can reach young hospitality people before they do something tragic and irreversible.
We couldn't help Nyall – he didn't know about Hospitality Action – but we can honour his memory by sharing his story and telling others to seek help before their problems get on top of them.
The second film features chefs Phil Howard and Tom Kerridge and explores the risk factors of addiction. We know that addiction, mental health problems and self-harm are often interrelated, and being aware of that is a vital part of the solution.
Finally, we've developed a new half-day Suicide Awareness course for managers, HR teams and health and safety specialists. The course helps you support colleagues, signpost them to appropriate help and safeguard your own mental wellbeing. The course covers:
- Understanding suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
- The difference between ideation and action.
- Understanding your reactions.
- Conversations with those affected.
- What to say and what not to say
- Spotting warning signs.
- Best practice for support and responses to risk.
- Self-care and wellbeing.
- Using the Employee Assistance Programme.
We think it will be an incredibly valuable resource for any manager who has to deal with an employee presenting suicidal tendencies. You can find more information on our website. Helping the industry come together and tackle this issue is a huge area of focus for HA, one that will continue into next year and beyond, but, of course, we also support the industry in other ways. From providing grants to families who find themselves in financial difficulty to helping keep our Golden Friends warm this winter, we're gearing up for one of our busiest times of the year.
We're only able to support the industry thanks to your generosity. In these austere times our services, and therefore your financial support, is needed more than ever. We have lots of amazing events coming up across the country, and lots of ideas for how you can quickly set up fundraising activities to help your colleagues in need. Find out more on our website.
We've got you.
To download the helpsheet and videos, go to www.hospitalityaction.org.uk/get-help/world-mental-health-day/
Photography: Joshua Ness, Unsplash
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