Practice 9: Crisis Response: Accommodation, Re-integration and Postvention
Follow crisis management procedures and longer-term support in the aftermath of a suicide or mental health crisis.
Why is this important and what does this practice entail?
Let’s first acknowledge suicide is difficult to talk about, and most of us feel very under-prepared. While it would help ease our anxiety, no magic phrase or a “one-size-fits-all” approach exists. Trainings, like those mentioned above, can help steer the conversation in the direction of growth, transformation and healing when you are concerned an employee may be considering suicide, after an attempt or near miss or after a suicide death.
Let’s also acknowledge that, just like other health issues, we can do our best work to prevent a poor outcome, and sometimes, we still may experience tragedy. With cancer, we do our best to help people live healthy lives, we try to detect tumors when they are small, we give people the best state-of-the-art treatment, and sometimes, people still die of cancer. The same is true here. The goal for all of us — in all areas of our health and safety — is to keep striving to learn and grow, so together as a community, our prevention efforts improve.
Policies and practices, therefore, need to be developed around three different scenarios:
• What to do when you are concerned an employee is experiencing suicidal intensity
• What to do after a suicide attempt or near miss
• What to do after an employee or someone close to the workplace has died by suicide.
Essentially, managers should treat a suicide or suicide attempt like other workplace crises, trauma, illness or death. Employees might also be caregivers or support people for friends and family who are experiencing suicidal despair. We should think of them like we do caregivers providing support for someone going through chemo or recovering after major surgery. In responding to people in all of these situations, your decisions should be guided by values of flexibility, empowerment, dignity, respect, and collaboration. Ask yourself, “What is our usual protocol after someone has been in a car wreck or is needing to undergo chemotherapy?” Consider the standard operating guidelines are for those emergencies and start from there. If you deviate from those practices and the culture of care that usually follows these crises, you should have a defendable reason.
Training for workers in these areas are not meant to represent standards of care, nor are they intended to be considered as advice for any specific situation, consultation or to replace appropriate medical or mental health care. Trainings are to be considering informational to help those responding to a suicide crisis — like what to say and what not to say, and how to develop a return-to-work plan, if needed.
For the person in recovery, work can play a critical role by helping to:
- give them a sense of purpose, helping them feel like they matter
- allow them to stay connected to others
- give structure in their life
- give them a sense of control and efficacy when the rest of their life may feel out of control