A man who survived two suicide attempts is calling on every UK workplace to have better mental health conversations to try to save lives.
George Sullivan, 25, from Surrey, is backing a new “workplace charter” which would help people support colleagues more effectively and enable more helpful discussions at work about suicide.
“Everyone deserves this, everyone deserves help,” he told Sky News.
“I am a suicide attempt survivor, I attempted suicide both at 14 years old and at 23.”
“I felt shame and embarrassment – for someone to try and end their life in that way, we just can’t have that in our society.
“If I told you that you had the ability to save someone’s life everyone would want to, and that is totally possible by learning how to have that conversation and reducing that stigma.”
The charter, which is designed for businesses of all sizes, is led by the team behind Baton Of Hope, a suicide awareness initiative that will embark on a UK-wide tour this summer with a specially-designed baton similar to the Olympic torch.
Ahead of the launch, Mr Sullivan explained that conversations in the workplace about suicide prevention and support need to be normalised and encouraged.
“We can still do better on this.
“It’s about guiding people to be able to do this, to spot the signs and to be confident they can offer help.”
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‘Not just about saving lives’
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50.
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that 17 million working days are lost each year due to depression, stress and anxiety.
“It is not just about saving human lives,” Mr Sullivan added.
“I was out of work for a year-and-a-half and what effect does that have on the economy?
“On efficiency, productivity, tax, family networks, friend networks – there are so many things that it affects.”
Companies that sign up to the charter will agree to make suicide prevention and support a priority, use clear consistent messaging when discussing the issue, train staff, embrace people with experience, and promote crisis services and further support.
‘Ultimately a message of hope’
Former Sky News correspondent Mike McCarthy is the founder of Baton Of Hope – his son Ross battled depression for a decade before taking his own life in 2021.
Ross left behind a young son, a fiancée, and asked his family to campaign for better mental health support.
Mr McCarthy said: “The hope – and I use that word deliberately since ours is ultimately a message of hope – is that businesses up and down the country will see the critical need for guidance around suicide prevention and support, that they’ll discuss it openly, and that this can be the catalyst for real change.”
‘If suicide were a virus we’d be on the hunt for a vaccine’
More than 100 MPs have pledged their support to the Baton Of Hope which will tour 12 UK cities starting in Glasgow on 25 June.
Dean Russell, MP for Watford, who will help launch the charter in Westminster later, said: “The workplace plays a crucial part in our mental health and there is a clear need for guidance on how organisations can better support their greatest asset – their people.
“If suicide were a virus we’d be on the hunt for a vaccine and if loneliness were a disease, we would be trying to find a cure.
“We can achieve this by working together.”
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK