Suicide Awareness in the Workplace

Posted September 23, 2019 by Briana Alford-Jones in Managing Your Team
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which is a great time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly stigmatized topic.

Most people spend a good amount of time at work, and it’s important that employees feel they are in a welcoming and caring environment. As an employer, you want to make sure that you provide a supportive work culture for your employees. When it comes to mental health and the issue of suicide, this can be difficult to navigate.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 54% of individuals that commit suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Suicide is rarely caused by one factor which makes it difficult to identify someone who is at risk. Based on data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 4.3% of adults age 18 and older in the United States had thoughts about suicide in 2017. These percentages alone are very alarming, and show the severity of suicide. This needs to be a topic that employers and employees are aware of.

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Prioritizing Mental Health

Mental health should always be a priority, and people should feel like it’s okay to seek help if they’re struggling. Creating a culture of empathy allows employees to feel understood and valued. This will ultimately allow you and your employees to build trust in the workplace, and allow them to feel comfortable enough to be open about their needs. Things as simple as encouraging employees to take personal days or letting them know it’s okay to leave work for therapy appointments show that you care about their well being.

However, when the topic of suicide awareness comes up, it can get confusing in terms of what is appropriate and what is not when spreading awareness.

When you’re in a position of leadership, it’s important to remember that you are not a therapist or mental health professional. Approaching someone who you may think is at risk is inappropriate, but there are a few ways to increase awareness in your company.

What You Can Do

Educating yourself as well as your employees is the best way to spread awareness. There are a lot of resources available for you to share. The National Alliance for Suicide Prevention has great resources that you can share with your employees. A great example would be this worksheet explaining how employees can recognize and respond to coworkers who may be at risk.

In an effort to increase awareness, it’s important that you analyze your wellness program. You could also consider a program for employees on identifying warning signs of suicide ideation (this refers to thinking about, considering, or planning suicide) and possible resources to help. You’d likely get employees to participate if the focus of the program pinpoints how employees may be able to help people close to them. Attendance would not be an act of self-disclosure but an act of concern for others.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a good way to offer help to employees who may be struggling. This type of program can help employees with a myriad of problems they may be going through. If you already have one, make it a point to spread the word about this available resource. If you don’t, this is a great time to start taking steps to get an EAP in your company.

For more information on suicide prevention awareness, #Bethe1To has substantial resources that are informative and helpful on the subject. Something as simple as encouraging employees (along with yourself) to join their social media campaign to spread awareness is an engaging way to get involved and become more informed.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.