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Suicide Prevention in the Workplace: Everyone’s Responsibility

8 Feb. 2017 Posted by aadams

Julie Sharp, FEI Account Manager

“The workplace is the last crucible of sustained human contact for many of the 30,000 people who kill themselves each year in the United States. A co-worker’s suicide has a deep, disturbing impact on work mates. For managers, such tragedies pose challenges no one covered in management school.” – Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal

A quick review of academic and popular literature, including articles from Princeton University, The Atlantic, and National Review, indicates a disturbing increase in mortality rates among the middle-aged working class—particularly white males. Drug and alcohol addiction, chronic pain and inability to work, liver disease, and suicide all factor into this trend. Workplaces that are male-dominated, have a culture of substance abuse and involve dangerous work may be at higher risk, but suicide is an issue that impacts all kinds of workplaces and employee populations.

In addition to close family and friends, a suicide death impacts about 20 co-workers. Clearly, this is an urgent issue that demands our attention as leaders in our organizations.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, founder of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation and an advocate for suicide prevention in the workplace, describes suicide prevention as a river that flows downward. Suicide prevention consists of upstream activities, midstream activities and downstream activities. The key is to get upstream from the crisis!

Here are some suggestions for what you can do:

Upstream Activities: Promoting Protection and Safety

  • Promote well-being to the whole population through programs like EAP or wellness initiatives.
  • Promote manager training in identifying people at risk and services like EAP in order to intervene early, preventing a downward progression.
  • Offer training in life skills, i.e. conflict resolution, coping skills, stress management, etc.
  • Implement a training program to raise awareness and competency across the organization.
  • Invite public safety or crisis center personnel to speak to the workforce on local services and protocols.
  • Make suicide prevention a health and safety priority!

Midstream Activities: Early and Effective Intervention

  • Training front-line supervisors and managers to recognize troubled employees and promote the resources available, including EAP, is imperative.
  • There are online screening programs tools available to help organizations implement mental health screenings, and your wellness program may have access to these as well.
  • Integrating EAP into the culture, aligning it with wellness initiatives and positioning it as a resource for well-being will help establish a culture of care.
  • Finally, promote your 24/7 EAP Access number as well as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) and the Text Crisis Line (text START to 741-741).

Downstream Activities: Crisis and Postvention

The responsibility for the prevention of suicide lies with all of us. As people of influence in our organizations, we can make a difference.

To talk more about how these ideas can be applied in your organization, call your EAP account manager today.



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