September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Every year, approximately 44,000 people die by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. According to a newly released study published in JAMA Psychiatry, suicide attempts among U.S. adults are on the rise. Middle-aged adults (aged 45-64 years) had the highest suicide rate and young adults (aged 21-34 years) had the biggest increase in suicide attempts. And, while suicide attempts were higher among women than men, more men completed suicide.
While suicide is preventable, it is a topic that many feel uncomfortable talking about, even with family and friends. It is important to know that family members, friends, coworkers and others can play an important role in recognizing when someone is at risk or in crisis and connect that person with the most appropriate sources of care. Here are the major warning signs to be aware of:
Signs of Acute Risk:
– Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
– Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
– Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary.
Expanded Warning Signs:
– Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
– No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
– Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
– Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
– Withdrawal from friends, family and society
– Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
– Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
– Dramatic mood changes
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month reminds us that suicide deaths can be prevented. According to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, for every one person who dies by suicide in the U.S., there are approximately 278 people who move past serious thoughts of suicide and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. The overwhelming majority of these people will go on to live out their lives.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or go to your nearest emergency room.
For more information about counseling and resources contact the EAP at 425-454-3003 or 1-800-648-5834.
For every two homicides in the U.S there are three suicides and the majority occur within the working population, yet few employers address this public health issue. When an employee has a mental health crisis at work, it affects the financial and social functioning of the workplace.
The Carson J Spencer Foundation has created a model for suicide prevention to help workplaces develop strategies that address prevention, intervention and postvention.
These key strategies involve:
- Vocal and visible leadership that can emphasize the importance of suicide prevention while modeling mental wellness and self-care;
- Policies and procedures that promote a mentally healthy workforce- including fair and compassionate reintegration policies, life skills promotion, and a culture of belonging.
- Suicide prevention training for the workforce that help employers to identify warning signs and risk factors; to know how to ask about suicide; and to confidently refer high risk people to the appropriate resources.
- Screening the workforce for early signs of depression and other mental health conditions, so that these illnesses do not become life threatening.
- Access to quality mental health services to ensure that those who need help receive appropriate highly qualified care with few obstacles.
- Means restriction that place barriers between high risk people and lethal means of suicide (e.g restricting high roof access on tall office buildings, securing lethal chemicals, etc)
- Crisis response and longterm postvention that seeks to stabilize a grieving and traumatized workforce and to honor bereavement needs.
If you are concerned about an employee, call Fully Effective Employees for confidential assistance. If an employee makes a suicidal threat, it should be taken very seriously and a family member should be contacted or the employee should be taken to the nearest emergency room for an assessment.
For more information about these strategies, visit:
Source: Journal of Employee Assistance 3rd Qtr 2011
If an employee does commit suicide, it can have a profound impact on the workplace and it can be very helpful to utilize the EAP for consultation and support. We can provide a critical incident debriefing onsite to assist co-workers who were directly involved with the employee. The debriefing can help co-workers process their feelings and reactions to the news and to educate them about the normal symptoms they may be experiencing as part of their reaction to an abnormal event (trauma). There may be feelings of guilt for those that may have known the individual was suicidal. For others, it may surface unresolved loss or trauma in their own lives and even their own suicidal feelings.
Sometimes family members may not want the cause of death discussed at the workplace even though co-workers may be suspicious or know the cause. Employers may wish to set up a memorial fund, have a brief memorial or send a card to family members. This provides some closure to the surviving co-workers and reinforces the support of the employer.
It is extremely important that employers encourage employees to seek professional help for emotional problems without stigma or judgment and if they are approached by an employee who may be depressed or suicidal, that they maintain the utmost confidentiality. If you have questions about how the EAP can help with potentially suicidal employees or with the aftermath of a suicide at your workplace, please contact us.