A recently released report by the CDC offers a poignant reminder that many employees struggle with mental health issues.

The authors find that suicides have increased in the working age population overall by 34% between 2000 and 2016, and that the rate of suicide varies by sex and occupation. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women across all occupational categories, and the highest rate for men is in the category of construction and extraction category, while for women it’s in the category of arts, design, entertainment, sports and media.

Suicide Rates by Sex and Occupation, 2015

From Peterson C, Stone DM, Marsh SM, et al. Suicide Rates by Major Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012 and 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1253–1260. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6745a1

The Surgeon General underscored that businesses have a role to play in preventing suicide. Work related factors that have been related to risk of suicide and depression include job strain, low decision latitude, low social support, high psychological demands, effort-reward imbalance, and high job insecurity.

Fortunately, employers can manage the characteristics of job and workplace environments that contribute to depression and heightened risk of suicide. Capacity building, along with a focus on promoting connectedness, are powerful ways of minimizing feelings of helplessness and isolation that can lead to suicidal thoughts. In addition, employers can provide universal training for employees to detect at risk co-workers and take appropriate action.

As payers for much of the nations' health care, employers can be instrumental in making sure that employees have access to mental health resources. Mechanisms for helping individuals cope can include medication, psychotherapy, and occupational therapy. These strategies can also be effective to improve mental well-being and interrupt suicidal behaviors.

Promoting good mental health may also benefit the business more generally, by reducing lost work time associated with mental health disorders.

Workplace suicide prevention resources can be found at the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.


Posted by Erin Peterson

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