Use this opportunity to increase awareness, share resources; your actions could be life-saving.
Suicide is on the rise. Over 45,000 people die by suicide annually, and this is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Although suicide prevention focuses mainly on identifying people with mental health conditions and providing appropriate interventions, there are many additional opportunities to educate and help people. September, which is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, is the perfect time to help break down the stigmas and stereotypes about mental health issues and increase awareness among your employees. The results could save lives.
Start by helping your employees understand the warning signs of suicidal ideation/thoughts:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
Signs that require urgent help from a healthcare provider include:
- Collecting and/or saving pills
- Buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, such as organizing personal papers or paying up debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
As nearly half (46%) of people who commit suicide had a known mental health condition, it is important for your employees to understand issues that may put someone at risk:
- Family history of suicide
- Substance abuse
- Intoxication (more than 1 in 3 people who commit suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death)
- Access to firearms
- Serious or chronic medical illness
- Gender (men are four times more likely to die by suicide)
- History of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- Recent tragedy or loss
It is important to let employees know that there is no shame in experiencing depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, or other mental health issues. Let them know that they can talk with you about what they are feeling and seek help as necessary without judgment. Adopt an open and compassionate mindset; don’t argue with them, dismiss their concerns, or discount their feelings. Avoid comments such as “Your life isn’t that bad!” or “You’re just going through a rough patch.”
The existence of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is “really important,” says Michael Fingerhood, MD, associate professor of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University. “You need to promote the services of the EAP to employees. Normalize the use of EAP by advertising the wellness and general well-being programs that are aimed at everyone,” he said, adding, “We have gotten better about decreasing the stigma associated with mental health issues, but we need to continue to work on this.” He stresses the importance of confidentiality and the ability of employees to seek help without fear of being judged or penalized.
Always keep crisis resources handy:
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
- The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
Click here for resources, images, information and more you can use to promote Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.