Business Group Blog

World Mental Health Day 2019

Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide, and many more people attempt to hurt or kill themselves. October 10 is World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is focus on suicide prevention. Suicide isn’t something that is unique to any or country or region of the world; in fact over 79% of suicides take place in low- or middle- income countries. And in the U.S., suicide rates rose across the country between 1999 and 2016.

The workplace isn’t immune either. Occupational stress specifically may be a risk factor as well. A 2018 study showed that odds for moderate to severe suicidal ideation were about four times greater in those with job strain or those who reported long work hours than for those who didn’t.  This past summer, the trial of France Télécom executives made headlines for their alleged “moral harassment” of protected state employees.  This case was unprecedented, with the prosecution claiming a corporation was responsible for the deaths of multiple employees by suicide. The verdict will be delivered on December 20th and could potentially send shock waves throughout Europe and the global community.

The causes of suicide are complex and varied. “While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.” Suicide rates are higher for people who have experienced severe trauma, loss, or stress and for those who are part of vulnerable populations.

Employers can address occupational health risks for both suicide and suicidal ideation by:

  • Providing mental health benefits and treatment where applicable, including innovative ways to increase access such as on-site clinicians and digital therapeutics;
  • Combating stigma around the topic through education and mental health ambassadors/champions or testimonials;
  • Addressing psychosocial hazards and employee health risks by emphasizing the importance of a healthy workplace and making practical changes that increase work/life balance, job satisfaction and manager effectiveness;
  • Implementing anti-harassment and bullying policies and procedures;
  • Educating managers and employees on suicide warning signs;
  • Being aware of which industries and job roles are at an increased risk of suicide; and
  • Putting a suicide prevention and postvention plan in place.

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