Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths each year. And for every suicide, there are 25 attempts.

Suicide is a public health crisis.

So what can your company do about it?

This week is Suicide Prevention Week, which is a great time to shine the spotlight on a topic that people may be reluctant to talk about—and consider some events or initiatives that you can implement at a later date.

Your Company’s Role in Suicide Prevention

  • Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention, from managers on down. The first step is to build healthy relationships in the workplace. The second step is to be observant. If anyone in your organization notices an abrupt change in a team-member—chronic anger, unrelenting sadness, a change in work habits and productivity, a reluctance to interact with others—that may indicate a problem, then they can take action.
  • Decide on the actions your team should take. Can your company offer training on how to identify someone in emotional distress, and how to respond to them? If your company has an Employee Assistance Program, do you publicize the referrals and counseling available through it? If you don’t have an EAP, is your HR staff trained and prepared to help team-members who may be having suicidal thoughts.
  • Encourage your team to take action if they suspect someone may be having thoughts of suicide. Too often, we don’t want to “butt in” to other people’s lives—but a sincere intervention on the part of a trusted co-worker could save a life.

Your Workers’ Role in Suicide Prevention

If the risk of suicide is not imminent, your team can follow these simple steps:

  1. Reach out to the person. Ask how he or she is doing.
  2. Listen without judging.
  3. Mention changes noticed in your co-worker’s behavior and express concern about his or her emotional well-being.
  4. Suggest that he or she talk with someone in the EAP, the HR Department, or another mental health professional. Offer to help arrange an appointment and go with the person.
  5. Continue to stay in contact with the person and pay attention to how he or she is doing.

If a co-worker is talking about wanting to die or kill himself, is looking for a way to kill himself, or is talking about having no reason to live, your team can follow these steps:

  1. If the danger for self-harm seems imminent, call 911.
  2. Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help.
  3. Contact the EAP or HR Department and they will help you decide what to do. Provide any background information that may be helpful.
  4. If you do not have an EAP or HR Department, contact the Lifeline and follow their guidance.
  5. Continue to stay in contact with the person and pay attention to how he or she is doing.

Your team’s mental health is an important part of your company’s long-term health and success. This week, of all weeks, make sure your entire workforce understands how much you value you their health and safety—and how big an impact they can have on each other’s health and safety, too.

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