Business Group Blog

5 Ways Employers Can Help Prevent Suicide

Saturday, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. The theme is Connect. Communicate. Care.Suicide Prevention Ribbon

Over the last half century, suicide rates have increased by 60% in some areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. The causes of suicide are complex and varied. Risk factors include depression, substance abuse, previous suicide attempt(s), self-harm, abuse, violence, chronic pain, stressful life events and loss, as well as social, biological, environmental and cultural influences.

Employers can help address the risk of suicide in their employee population by doing the following:

 

1. Establish a Healthy Workplace Culture

Workplace stress and overwork are related to poor mental health and may contribute to suicide risk in those already vulnerable. Strive for a work environment that values employees and promotes respect, open communication, a sense of belonging and emotional well-being, and that encourages people to seek help when they need it and to support each other.

2. Provide Mental Health, Physical Health and Work/Life Resources

In some countries, employee assistance programs (EAPs) may be the only real resource available. In others, there may be more options, including providing mental health/substance abuse coverage (e.g., medication and counseling) in benefits plans and/or partnering with non-governmental (or governmental) organizations to provide suicide helplines and assistance. Where possible, develop relationships with local mental health professionals.

3. Combat Stigma

Fear of stigma is one of the primary reasons that people do not seek mental health treatment. Employees who are reluctant to disclose information about their mental health problems may be particularly unlikely to access employer-sponsored support programs. To combat stigma,

  • Focus on educational initiatives that provide current and accurate information about mental illness.
  • Encourage senior leadership to act as role models and show leadership around mental health and emotional well-being.
  • Conduct outreach programs that encourage employees to use available mental health resources if needed.
  • Include mental health issues in health promotion activities in a similar way as one would include physical health issues.

4. Educate Managers and Employees on Suicide Warning Signs and Response

Managers and co-workers should be aware of warning signs that may indicate who’s at risk for suicide. Education can take place through manager training programs, company newsletter articles, lunch and learns, staff meetings or company intranet/health promotion websites.

5. Implement a Suicide Prevention Program

Consider implementing a suicide prevention program at the workplace. Key components of such a program include developing and outlining a response plan, mental health emergency contact information, education and training programs, and suicide prevention resource guides.

 

Employers who want to learn more about this topic can join us at the 2017 Employers' Forum on Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being in San Francisco, California, January 25-26, 2017.

 

For more strategies and country-specific resources, Global Business Group on Health members can access the full issue brief.

Additional Related Global Resources

International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)

Mental Health First Aid International