Colleague self harming tendencies and suicidal thoughts

Postby dickiem » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:39 pm

Hi everyone, it’s many years since I posted here last and this time I’d appreciate some guidance regarding another work colleague.

Whilst trying to understand some performance issues which in fairness are out of character for this lad, he eventually confided that he’d occasionally self harmed and had experienced suicidal thoughts since he was 14/15 (he’s about 23 now) and these are still prevalent.

He’s told his parents but feels guilty about sharing his feelings with them too much as he doesn’t want to upset them.

He doesn’t want to see a doctor or take advantage of our employee support programme as he doesn’t feel he deserves to feel better (his words).

I feel at a loss as he clearly has some serious issues but no inclination to address them. As his manager, I appreciate that I can’t push him to seek help but as a father with a son only a little younger than him, I feel that I want to help in whatever way I can. He’s a genuinely nice lad, very timid and overly polite and it’s awful knowing he’s in such an awful place and feeling he doesn’t deserve support. Any ideas how to handle it?
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:00 pm

The best thing you can do is:

-1- be a role model and;
-2- help develop him and cultivate his talents

This is certainly nothing necessarily different than any employee you might manage, but each employee has a different position that is a “best fit” for both inside and outside the organization and looking towards the employees future.

Some employees take more effort than others. That’s nothing new, just life.

For someone that has felt confident opening up to you about suicidal ideation, it demonstrates a level of trust and respect. You can leverage that trust and move the relationship forward by helping him set some positive goals that you can be a mentor in helping him achieve. If he wants to be an artist for example, you can help support that aspect in his life as it is a win for you, for him, and the organization.

The one thing I would avoid is trying to be a therapist. That is not your role. I would make sure you follow any HR guidance and be sure to document.

As a manager you are in a spot to help, but more as a leader or mentor that he can look up to and get direction from. I would maintain that professional mentor role and avoid any father, parenting, counseling, or therapy role. He looks up to you as a leader/mentor, so keep it that way and use it to his advantage.
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