Suicide Prevention: Identifying and Responding to Warning Signs

Suicide Prevention: Identifying and Responding to Warning Signs

Starting a conversation with a co-worker who might be having a hard time could save a life; but starting that conversation can be a difficult step to take.

If you or someone in your workplace is in crisis, and you believe there is a need for immediate action, call emergency services on Triple Zero (000), contact a local doctor or mental health service or attend your local hospital emergency department.

Identifying the warning signs

As co-workers spend a large amount of time together throughout the week, they can be in a unique position to identify drastic or even subtle changes to a person’s regular behaviour. Often, people at risk of suicide may attempt to hide how they’re feeling, but sometimes changes to normal behaviour can be a warning sign.

Some warning signs to look out for include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped or having unbearable pain
  • Taking unusual amounts of time off work
  • Social withdrawals/a sense of alienation
  • Agitation, anxiety and irritability
  • Quitting activities that were previously important
  • Sadness, anger, disconnection and helplessness

Responding to the warning signs

If you’re concerned a co-worker may be at risk of suicide, it can be hard to know how to respond. It’s important to avoid telling the person they’re being stupid and trivialising their behaviour. Instead, try to understand how the person is feeling; ask them if they’re ok, and mention they haven’t seemed themselves lately. If you feel out of your depth, bring your concerns to someone else who could help, whether that be another co-worker, or a manager who has been trained in suicide first aid. Many MIGAS Field Officers have training in suicide prevention; call yours if you feel comfortable doing so. You can also contact a crisis line for advice on how to proceed, such as Lifeline – 13 11 14. MIGAS employees and immediate family also have 24/7 access to the Employee Assistance Program – call 1800 818 728.

If the situation is urgent and you’re concerned the person is in immediate danger, do not leave that person alone unless you are concerned for your own safety. Call Triple Zero (000) as soon as you can safely do so.

For more information on what to do in a crisis situation, visit the following resources. - Suicide: What to look for

BeyondBlue - Emergency and Crisis Situations

MATES in Construction


Additional support

13 11 14
\Access to crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services, telephone and chat services.

Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467
Free, nationwide telephone and online counselling for anyone affected by suicide.

Conversations Matter
Practical online resource to support safe and effective community discussions about suicide.\


Published 28 August 2015