What Inspired WASP

In Summer 2021, I set up a steering group, Workplace Awareness of Suicide Prevention (WASP), with Ellice Whyte, Chris Brown, and David Murphy. Our aim is to bring awareness, knowledge, and skills to businesses on suicide prevention.

Through the first lockdown of 2020, I was contacted by several organisations with concerns about an increase in calls from customers who mentioned suicide. Their employees were unsure of how to respond and feared exasperating the situation.

It became apparent from these conversations that suicide prevention and intervention wasn’t part of most organisations’ toolkit. I made it a goal to create a clear policy and procedure to empower employees in managing suicide conversations with confidence and empathy.

I was introduced to Ellice, who is experienced in researching and writing company policies, and together, we created a Suicide Prevention Policy template for organisations to brand and implement within their business.

Whilst researching suicide prevention policies in the workplace, I discovered that very few organisations have this type of policy in place, and more concerning is that it’s not a mandatory requirement by law.

My further research into the legal and moral responsibilities of firms on suicide prevention revealed that all deaths in the workplace must be reported and investigated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), with the exception of suicide.

The HSE states that suicides are not accidental, however, working conditions, the company culture and workplace bullying all impact mental health. How can organisations implement changes to reduce the risks if there is no record of suicides occurring?

With this newfound knowledge, I felt driven to challenge the Government to legislate mandatory suicide prevention policies in the workplace and HSE to record and investigate workplace suicide deaths.

My personal aim, and now the aim of the WASP team, is to do more to support individuals in crisis whilst increasing workplace awareness of suicide prevention, ensuring that both customers and colleagues feel heard, supported and most importantly, safe.

We will be sharing updates as things move forward through the year. If you are interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you.

Helen Pettifer