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Suicide Prevention in the Workplace

Posted By Dr. Mark Friedlander and Dr. Christine Moutier, Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Support Suicide Prevention Month


Suicide is a national health crisis, with one person taking their own life every 12 minutes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Currently, it’s the second leading cause of death for adults ages 25-34 and the fourth leading cause of death for adults ages 35-54, both age groups that comprise the majority of today’s workforce. The correlation between work-related stress and an individual’s mental health is undeniable. Research from AFSP found that among adults who have been employed in the past 12 months, more than one in 10 have missed work days because they were too anxious (14%) or too depressed (16%) to go in.

Employees are a company’s most important asset, and it’s clear that mental health has an impact on their absenteeism, presenteeism and ultimately, productivity — subsequently impacting a company’s bottom line and costing the U.S. economy over $51 billion, according to Mental Health America.

To support National Suicide Prevention Month this September, we challenge employers to consider their role in supporting employees’ mental and emotional well-being. By providing vital resources, creating a positive work environment and continuing to raise awareness across industries, we can make significant progress in reducing the number of suicides each year.

Offering the right resources is crucial

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that 90% of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death. With Americans spending a majority of their time at work, and nearly a third of adults living with a mental health condition, it is essential that employers offer health plans inclusive of mental health services. One such option is an Employees Assistance Program  (EAP), a resource that provides confidential assessments and services to help resolve employees’ personal or work-related problems that may impact job performance, health or mental and emotional well-being.
Inclusion of services to benefit employee mental health is in high-demand from today’s workforce. AFSP found that the overwhelming majority (92%) of adults in the U.S. feel that health services that address mental health, such as treatment for depression and suicide prevention, are fundamental to overall health and should be part of any basic health care plan — a requirement that was signed into law in 2008 through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Beyond offering mental health care through a company’s health plan, there are other resources available for organizations. ASFP’s Interactive Screening Program (ISP), for instance, is an online program utilized by institutions of higher education, law enforcement agencies, workplaces and EAPs that provides a safe and confidential way for individuals to be screened for stress, depression and other mental health problems, and receive personalized responses from a mental health counselor.

Turn the workplace into a safe space

One of the most effective ways to prevent suicide and ensure individuals seek help is to create a supportive and connected workplace culture where all employees are equipped to spot signs of emotional distress in others and support coworkers. There are several resources available to build this positive culture, including the Campaign to Change Direction pledge to know the five signs of emotional suffering (personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness).

Employers should also consider training managers and supervisors within the company on effective ways to reduce stress, such as setting realistic goals, encouraging open communication, providing constructive feedback and resolving conflicts in a respectful way.

Continue the conversation

Don’t let mental health awareness in the workplace begin and end with National Suicide Prevention Month. Have monthly check-ins with employees to gauge their stress-level, regularly highlight available resources through the company, and have literature available around the office that outlines the risk factors and warning signs of someone who may be suicidal.

Employers can also leverage outside organizations to host educational sessions on mental health and suicide prevention within their companies. For example, ASFP launched a program called “Talk Saves Lives: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention™” that covers the general scope of suicide, research on prevention, and how together, we can prevent it.

Hope for the future

The business case for inclusive health care is clear, from improved employee productivity to engagement. But it’s also about reducing the number of lives lost to suicide each year. Offering employees the right resources, from education around warning signs to available mental health services, at the right time, can save lives.

Tags:  suicide prevention  wordplace safety 

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