How should an employer handle a suicidal employee?

Author: Julie H. Cox

A suicidal employee will more than likely have some other pre-existing psychiatric disorder such as major depression, drug abuse, schizophrenia, other personality disorders or a post-traumatic stress disorder. An employer should be aware of the signs that an employee may be at higher risk for suicide and know how to handle the event properly. The employee may have exhibited prior indications such as insomnia; anxiety; panic attacks; feeling desperate, trapped or hopeless; or having intense rage or anger.

An employer encountering this type of employee should first be willing to listen. This can be done by:

  • Asking the employee if they have a therapist already in place and if medications are prescribed; and
  • Trying to let the employee know that these feelings will pass and that treatment can help.

The employer may have to help the employee seek a mental health professional immediately, so being familiar with the employee assistance program and its guidelines is important. In an acute crisis where the employee is openly communicating plans for suicide, the employer should not leave the employee alone. Instead, the employer should seek help to get the employee to an emergency room or clinic after removing any objects the employee may be able to use to commit suicide.