Are You Concerned About Someone Who is Stressed or Suicidal? Your Workplace Employee Assistance Program Can Help Save Lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with suicide rates rising nearly 30 percent since 1999. Mental health conditions are often perceived as the cause of suicide, but it is rarely caused by a single factor. In fact, many people who commit suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.

A variety of problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance abuse and physical health. Other factors include job, money, legal or housing stress. Because of the impact employers have on such a large number of people, it is their responsibility to help prevent suicide in the workplace and offer support to those who may be vulnerable.

In addition to offering group insurance plans that include mental health coverage, most businesses have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) designed to offer medical support for their employees, including an integrated suicide prevention program that is created in consultation with mental health professionals.

The EAP can help employees learn more about signs and symptoms, risk factors, treatment options and where to seek support and resources.

An efficient suicide prevention plan, created as part of the EAP, should address the following aspects:

  1. Stigma reduction – Including a suicide prevention plan in the EAP helps reduce stigma around mental health issues and encourages the likelihood of individuals reaching out for help when they need it. It is important for employers to communicate that mental health issues are just as important to address as physical health issues.
  2. Sensitization training – Employers must have an environment where they feel safe to share their experiences relevant to mental health, particularly suicide, and receive help in a confidential and non-judgmental way. This requires sensitivity training at all levels of the organization to encourage open communication about mental health issues.
  3. Awareness programs – Employee awareness programs can be implemented to bring mental health and suicide prevention into conversation at the workplace. This could include informational fliers, posters, workshops and discussions centered on the theme of mental health and suicide prevention.
  4. Recognizing symptoms – Suicide is rarely something that happens all of a sudden, and is often triggered by an event or experience that makes a person think about taking his or her own life. Employees can be trained to watch out for signs of distress, provide emotional support and refer individuals to mental health professionals for additional resources and support.
  5. Follow-up services – For any mental health or suicide prevention program, it is ideal to have on staff a full- or part-time mental health professional whom employees may contact for support or referral services. These individuals may also help the organization identify more vulnerable groups or persons in distress, as well as help empower employees who have suicidal thoughts to reach out.

Overall, employers must recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility, and is a public health problem that can and must be prevented. Organizations must make it easy for individuals experiencing anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts to quickly and easily get the help they need.

If you are worried about someone attempting suicide, the best course of action is to let them know you care, encourage them to seek help and connect them with resources and support from mental health professionals, family members or friends. In the event of an emergency involving someone who may be depressed or suicidal, call 911.

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Pacific Federal is a subsidiary of Zenith American Solutions.