Every year between 5,500 and 6,000 people in Britain end their own lives – well over three times the number of people who die on our roads.
Unions can have a role to play in helping prevent suicides and supporting those who may have suicidal thoughts.
There can be few more tragic issues that a union representative has to deal with than the suicide of a fellow worker. Fortunately, this is something that most union representatives will never encounter but the issue of suicide is an important one and can often be linked to issues such as workplace stress, bullying or harassment.
There are two main areas where union representatives can help make it less likely that someone in their workplace will end their lives. These are:
Unions can try to ensure that the workplace is not contributing to a persons mental health problems by tackling issues such as stress bullying and harassment.
They can also ensure that their employer has processes to help identify individuals at risk, support those people and raise awareness of the complex issues surrounding suicide.
That means negotiating policies that cover these areas and reviewing existing policies.
Union representatives should not be expected to be qualified counsellors. But often they are the person that a worker will contact when they have a problem and representatives can support these people and ensure that they know where they can get help.