Category Archives: employee wellbeing

Suicide Prevention

suicide prevention

Spotting warning signs

Being told a colleague has committed suicide is sickening. This has happened to me twice, and I sincerely hope it never happens again. It was bad enough for me; I just can’t begin to imagine the pain for these people’s families. You keep going over in your mind if there is anything you could have done to prevent it, had you seen the signs, but subconsciously dismissed them?

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people take their own life each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. That’s tragic.

This Thursday (10th September) is Suicide Prevention Day. We know that employees have had the added stress of Covid-19, so now more than ever we need to be on the lookout for the warning signs.

I am no expert on mental health, so I asked my colleague Ase Greenacre, a mental health counsellor, if she could share some insights and tips with us to reduce the risk of ever having to hear of a colleague’s (or anyone else’s) suicide.

Ase wrote:

Suicide warning signs to look out for:

Change in appearance: weight loss or gain, lack of personal hygiene, increase in minor illnesses.

Change in behaviour: Increased alcohol intake, drugs, aggression, self-harm, putting affairs in order, emotional outbursts, risk taking that are out of character, sleeping a lot more than usual, stop attending activities that used to be important, stop seeing friends and family.

Intense feelings: Sadness, shame, loneliness, desperation, hopelessness, anger and disconnection.

Here are some tips on how to approach someone you might feel concerned about:

  • Create a safe space for the person/s who needs to talk
  • Find the right time and place Assess the situation – make sure it’s safe for you to approach
  • Approach in as normal a way as possible
  • Listen and communicate non-judgementally
  • Give support and information only (not advice / don’t try and fix!)
  • Pay attention to body language. Use attentive posture, comfortable eye contact, and gestures, expressions, and intensity that match the speaker’s
  • Use thoughtful, open-ended, empathic questions to invite deeper thought and consideration: “How did you feel then? “
  • Remind yourself that respectful empathetic listening is a gift you may giveand it does not mean “I agree with you”
  • When the speaker pauses, you can briefly summarise what you heard in your own words, without solutions (this is the hardest part). When you need to say something: introject, don’t interrupt

MHFA England – Mental Health First Aid in the workplace

Ase also recommends every business should have mental first aiders, in the same way you have a normal first aider.

Mental Health First Aid training is a must for all organisations.  The optimal quota is 1 mental Health First Aider for every 10 employees to provide adequate staff support.

As companies return to the workplace, awareness of the mental health of staff is even more prevalent as the experience and feelings around Covid-19 varies from person to person. There will be many different reactions and behaviours that will require understanding, empathy and patience. Some might also require more attention, and this is where a Mental Health First Aider come in.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course which teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.

MHFA won’t teach you to be a therapist, but just like physical first aid, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis.

Adult MHFA courses are for everyone aged 16 upwards. Every MHFA course is delivered by a quality assured instructor who has attended our Instructor Training programme accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health and is trained to keep people safe and supported while they learn.

To become a MHFA you need to do a 2-day training course. Sessions include activities, input and discussions in a small confidential group.  All learnings have value for your work environment as well in your private life.

There is also a 1-day Champion MHFA course which is also a great step towards awareness and support within the company.

You will gain:

  • In-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Learn how to spot warning signs and triggers of mental health concerns
  • Gain confidence in how to approach someone, assist and support them
  • Focus on real skills as well as tips and tools to feel able to engage with this very complex area.

You will receive:

  • Mental Health First Aider certificate from MHFA England
  • MHFA manual
  • MHFA workbook
  • MHFAider badge & lanyard
  • MHFA line managers guide where applicable

How will attending an MHFA course help?

Research and evaluation shows that taking part in an MHFA course:

  • Raises awareness and mental health literacy
  • Reduces stigma around mental ill health
  • Boosts knowledge and confidence in dealing with mental health issues
  • Promotes early intervention which enables recovery

Thank you Ase for your tips.

To learn more or book onto an Adult MHFA course contact Ase directly at : ase@mrtconsultants.co.uk or go to https://mrtconsultants.co.uk/

If you only do one thing towards suicide prevention:

Get yourself or at least one of your team booked onto a Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace course. In the meantime don’t ignore the signs. If you don’t feel you can help, at least point people in the direction of those that can.


More than just a headache

I don’t normally write about personal stuff but as this week is National migraine week and I’m a long-term sufferer I thought this was a great opportunity to educate those who are affected by friends and colleagues or employees who suffer from migraine. Also to promote some of the excellent achievements from the National Migraine Centre in London who have a worldwide reputation for treatment and research into migraine, and have certainly helped me to keep my migraines in check. employees with migraine

Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population and every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack. The World Health Organisation ranks it as one of the 20 most disabling conditions, however it is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact (it costs the UK economy in the region of £7 billion).

My migraine hell started in my early teens and I remember whilst at university some of my fellow students reporting that they thought I was dying when they first saw me with a migraine attack.

Mercifully when I was working in Florida for 14 months I can only recall one migraine attack; maybe I was just a little bit more relaxed while I was there. Frustratingly the one attack I did have was when I was visiting friends and I certainly wasn’t fit to drive home and missed work the next day. My boss simply could not comprehend that a ‘headache’ could prevent me from getting to work.

Then as I moved into management positions initially my migraine attacks became more frequent. Although I had a certain amount of empathy from the company I always felt that there was an element of suspicion that my ailments weren’t genuine. A consultation with the company doctor at the time confirmed this as “classical migraine” and from then on in my colleagues were a little more understanding.

If you have friends or family who suffer from migraine you’re probably already aware of just how debilitating it can be. But if you’re an employer and it affects someone’s reliability and quality of their work you may not be quite so understanding. Migraine is not simply a headache, and pumping yourself up with painkillers does nothing to alleviate the symptoms, and in fact in many cases can make things worse, especially nausea and sickness.

Talk to your employee about any known triggers to a migraine attack. Quite often it might be a combination of triggers that bring on an attack rather than just one. In my own case there are a few things that I am wary of and in the past as an employee it could sometimes be difficult to avoid without letting others down. Of course the net result is you let them down any way if you then end up being ill.

Here are a few triggers that I’m aware of which can crop up in the workplace:

  • Low blood sugar, made worse by skipping or working through the lunch break
  • Dehydration so not having access to water
  • Interruption to sleep patterns, so made worse by shift patterns for example working a late shift followed by an early shift
  • Extremes of temperatures, e.g. Overheating in stuffy rooms or hot kitchens
  • Changes in barometric pressure or weather and/or extreme cold temperatures
  • Flickering lights
  • Undue stress or worry, which is often okay until people relax and then the migraine hits and on the first day of your holiday or at a weekend, so you come back to work feeling as though you never had a break.

If you have employees with migraine and they have not sought professional help, then do them (and yourself) a favour and refer them to the migraine clinic. More details below.

Extent of the Problem of Migraine

  • Every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack
  • 90,000 in the UK miss school/work every day because of migraine
  • Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the population
  • Migraine is most common between the ages of 30-50, and in women.
  • More than ¾ of sufferers report that their activities are limited by their condition
  • Most sufferers say migraine interferes with family and social relationships
  • Migraine is more common than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined
  • The World Health Organisation ranks migraine as one of the 20most disabling conditions.
  • 1 in 3 neurologist referrals are for headache
  • Migraine is the least publicly funded neurological illness relative to its economic impact
  • Over ⅓ of sufferers face difficulties and discrimination at work because of their migraines
  • Less than half of migraine patients consult a physician

National Migraine Centre has for 40 years provided treatment to sufferers of migraine and cluster headache as well as education to healthcare professionals. Patients can self-refer and are asked to donate towards the cost of their appointment as the Clinic receives no government funding. The clinic is based in London and open to those from all over the UK, however hopes to setup outreach clinics in the future to improve accessibility for sufferers around the country.

Migraine treatment has come a long way in the last ten years, but recent developments show there is more that can be done. The current approach is for treatment that targets the head (as opposed to the whole body with drugs). These treatments include; Greater Occipital nerve block injections, Botox injections (recently approved by NICE – The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and due to be offered by the NHS from mid September), and handheld devices giving electrical or magnetic stimulation of the brain.

For information regarding the charity and its work:

National Migraine Centre. 1st Floor Citibase Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP.

Website: www.NationalMigraineCentre.org.uk Registered Charity no 1115935.