According to data released today by Towergate Health & Protection, 1.3% of overseas employees who contact a global EAP for support are flagged as being at risk of suicide. With the theme of this World Suicide Prevention Day – 10 September 2023 – being ‘creating hope through action’, Towergate Health & Protection is asking employers to act to put mental health and suicide prevention support in place for all staff overseas.

Red flag figures

The figures, from one of Towergate Health & Protection’s leading global employee assistance programme (EAP) providers that looks after over 6.5 million employees worldwide, show that employees in all regions need support.

Flagged cases (at risk of suicide as a % of total service users)

  • Africa 5.6
  • APAC (Asia Pacific) 0.9
  • Europe 1.1
  • LATAM (Latin America) 1.5
  • MENA (Middle East and North Africa) 0.3
  • North America 0.6
  • Global 1.3

When an overseas employee first contacts the global EAP for support, an initial assessment will take place, and this flags if an individual should be monitored closely or if immediate action must be taken. However, it is crucial to provide support for overseas employees before they reach crisis point.

Preventing mental health issues from escalating

It is vital to prevent mental health issues from escalating. Steps for employers to take include:

  • Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health
  • Provide mental health support
  • Communicate mental health support and make it easy to access
  • Have an emergency action plan

Providing mental health support for employees abroad can be relatively simple, and there are many options for employers to consider.

Having access to people who understand the unique pressures of working abroad is very important, and these can be accessed via a global EAP. Such services can also provide counselling either over the phone or online. There are also apps to help with mindfulness and managing anxiety. International private medical insurance (IPMI) and some risk insurance products can include specialist mental health support and access to professionals who can respond quickly if required.

Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “The figures for overseas staff flagged as being at risk of suicide are disturbing. ‘Creating hope through action’ is the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day’ and this is poignant. We would encourage employers who do not offer or communicate their mental health support to use this day as impetus to make changes and implement policy where needed.”