If you become aware that an employee has made a suicidal statement or threat, it is important to take this threat
seriously. Whether the threat is stated explicitly or in passing, at work or away from work, it is important to deal
with this difficult and sensitive issue directly. Below are some steps to help guide you through this employee issue:
If you are speaking with the employee when the threat is made:
Find a private place to talk. You may wish to get HR involved right away.
Tell the employee that you take this very seriously, but are not personally trained to help them.
Suggest involving the EAP. Say something like, “We have access to the Employee Assistance Program and
trained counselors who can help you. I’d like you to talk to someone at the EAP. It is confidential*.”
Call the EAP together..
When an EAP team member answers, tell them your name and that you are with an employee who needs
Tell the employee that if it is okay, you would like to speak to the EAP Counselor after he/she is done so that
you can understand what follow up or assistance is needed for the employee. Then, put the employee on the
phone to speak with the counselor.
If the employee would prefer that you leave the room at this point, please do so.
If/when you get back on the phone with the EAP counselor, ask about next steps.
Please note – the EAP counselor has to protect confidentiality. You will not get personal
information about the employee. However, if the employee has given permission, the EAP
counselor will give you some next steps to take. Or, if there is immediate risk, the counselor can
break confidentiality to protect people’s safety.
If the employee hangs up without you speaking with the EAP counselor, ask the employee what the
counselor told them to do. If the employee does not wish to discuss this, don’t push it too hard – respect
his/her privacy. (You can also call the EAP back and ask for whatever information and direction the
counselor can give you.)
Depending on what the counselor or the employee says, ask the employee if they are going to go home. If
the decision is for the employee to go home, ask if they would like you to call someone – especially if the
employee lives alone. Before the employee leaves the premises, ask them
(1) to call you when they arrive at home; and
(2) to give you the name and telephone number of a friend or family member you can call to check
on them. Also, suggest that they call the friend or family member for support.
If you learn of a threat from a third party:
You may wish to get HR involved right away.
Ask the employee, who you were told made the threat, to speak with you in a private office.
If the employee says “no,” then tell him that someone thought they did, and remind them about the
Employee Assistance Program as a resource that can assist them if they are in need of support.
If they say “yes,” then follow the procedure in the previous section.
You can always call the EAP and request a consultation about the situation.
If the employee is threatening suicide right away or if you feel that the
employee presents an imminent danger to others:
Call 988 or 911 for emergency help.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)
Try to keep the employee calm in a private space to respect their privacy.
Keep the incident as low-key as possible so as to not disrupt or alarm others.
Involve HR, even if it is simply notification that the incident has happened.
Do NOT make any judgments concerning whether or not the threat is “real.”
All threats are to be taken very seriously.
Call the EAP to speak with professional counselors, trained to help with the immediate situation.
The EAP will also consult on how to handle the impact on other employees, and how to manage
employees in the workplace moving forward.
*EAP counselors have master’s degrees and are licensed professionals. Your privacy is protected by strict federal and state confidentiality laws and regulations and by professional
ethical standards for counselors. Information you share with the EAP may not be released to anyone without your prior written consent, except as required by law (e.g. when a
person’s emotional condition is a threat to him or herself or others, or there is suspected child or elder abuse) or the issuance of a court order upon a showing of good cause.
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