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Suicide Prevention is Important in the Workplace


Suicide, a multifaceted public health issue, is the leading cause of death in the United States and has become endemic in the last few years. Every September, the nation gathers to celebrate Suicide Prevention Awareness. This annual event highlights the growing importance of this public health problem. It is also a time for education about how the public can help keep themselves and others connected.

Over the past three decades in the U.S., the suicide rate has increased by 32%.

1) 12 million Americans are seriously considering suicide.
2) About one suicide per 11 minutes kills 47,511 people.
3) Suicide deaths were the leading cause of death overall.

Suicide Prevention in the Workforce

Companies need to be more aware of their critical role in protecting and encouraging the well-being of their employees, explicitly urging them to prioritize their mental health. Why? Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 34 and the fourth among those aged 35-54.

The primary prevention of suicide in the workplace is to prevent work stress and create a positive working environment. Employers can adopt a holistic approach when making changes at work that could affect overall health, well-being, and financial aspects. A holistic approach to mental health in employees might include the following:

1). Paying attention to the demands asked of their employees
2). Ensuring employees have appropriate work and life balance
3). Promoting a positive company culture
4). Staying on top of workplace bullying and discrimination

The Comprehensive Blueprint for Workplace Suicide Prevention is available from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. It provides workplace guidelines to promote suicide prevention and mental health, such as mental health screening, resources, suicide prevention training, life skills, crisis management, education and advocacy, education and social marketing, and guidance for leaders.

A technical package of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policies, programs, and practices provides strategies that use the best evidence to prevent suicide. These strategies are designed to prevent suicide from ever happening and also keep people at risk safe. Employers can support and implement these strategies for their employees:

1). Access to more mental health screening tools that allow self-assessment.
2). Access to mental health services, such as Employee Assistance Programs, and easy access for employees to help services (e.g., financial counseling, treatment of substance abuse disorders, and mental health).
3). Promoting connection and a sense of community
4). Creating safer workplaces through organizational policies, including strategies to decrease suicide access.
5). Supporting people at risk by providing gatekeeper training to managers and supervisors. Gatekeepers are those individuals who have the potential to notice changes in the behavior and mood of others.
6). Helping colleagues understand the importance of keeping their colleagues and themselves safe and well.
7). Encouraging colleagues to have caring conversations and take steps to help others, especially those in need.
8). Establishing programs that teach coping and problem-solving skills to employees.
9). Offering support and preventing future risks after the suicide of a coworker.

How is your employer supporting the mental health of their workers? What have been your experiences in supporting the mental health of your employees?

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