How to Address Suicide Prevention in the Workplace

Posted by: 
Dan Jolivet
Employers play a crucial role in creating awareness and aiding those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Today's fragmented media environment can have significant effects on people’s mental health and well-being. This is especially relevant in the coverage of high-profile deaths in the news. Following a recent string of celebrity suicides, many were worried about the increased likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals immediately after. This phenomenon even has a name in the behavioral health community: suicide contagion.

The way these incidents were covered in the media presents employers with the opportunity to support those who may be at-risk, play a crucial role in creating awareness and aid those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

After high-profile suicides, employers can play a role in helping support and assist employees who may be experiencing similar thoughts. But in order to connect employees with the right resources, you need to be able to spot the signs. Declining work performance, poor hygiene, sudden weight changes, mood swings and depression are all signs that an employee may be struggling.

But it’s important to know that not all suicides are related to depression or mental illness. Many people who attempt suicide haven’t been diagnosed with a prior psychiatric condition or sought treatment for a behavioral health condition. Often, individuals considering suicide fear they are a burden to others, are stressed about finances, or are struggling to afford or secure a place to live. For this reason, it’s important for employers to consider all factors that could be contributing to an employee’s situation.

Removing the Stigma of Discussing Behavioral Health Issues in the Workplace

While it’s true that not all suicides are related to a behavioral health condition, the stigma surrounding these conditions still exists and can prevent many individuals from approaching their employer. By raising awareness, emphasizing empathy and expressing acceptance, employers can help remove the labels and negative connotations surrounding mental illness in the workplace.

Developing proactive open lines of communication around behavioral health conditions in the workplace can help employers create a culture of acceptance and support. By reaching out to employees, employers can build awareness of the services they offer to help those struggling.

Promoting Employee Benefits to Provide Needed Resources

Regardless of what an employee may be struggling with, suicidal thoughts or another behavioral health condition, it’s important for employers to provide their at-risk employees with resources. Educational campaigns to promote awareness of resources available through their employee benefits plans can ensure employees are getting the help that they need.

Working with a disability carrier can help employers address behavioral health issues. By integrating existing benefit offerings with other resources, employers can provide their employees with more robust treatment options. For example, EAPs typically provide employees with three free counseling sessions. Your disability carrier can help find creative solutions for an employee’s unique condition. Providing employees with comprehensive treatment and resource options can help them feel supported and valued.

While an employer may not know what’s going on in every one of their employee’s lives, by continually keeping an eye out, creating awareness of their benefits programs and reducing the stigma of mental illness, they may be able to provide the necessary assistance to help support their employees during a time of need. Make sure you have the right resources for your struggling employees by talking to your disability carrier today.