According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. today. Statistics from the American Psychological Association (APA) also proves that there was a 33% in the rate of suicides from 1999 through 2017 and that suicide now ranks as the second leading cause of death for 10- to 34-year-olds and the fourth leading cause of death for people aged 35 to 54.
This means that suicide rates are increasing, not decreasing; both at home and in the workplace.
But concern for the rise in workplace suicide is not new. In 2015, nearly five years ago, writer Aimee Swartz wrote for The Atlantic magazine,
“…In 2013, the last year for which data are available, 270 people in the U.S. committed suicide at work—a 12 per cent increase over the prior year.”
However, the results – more increase in the rate of workplace suicide – has not justified the attention invested by media, health or business professionals. This means that more businesses are now vulnerable to the negative effects of suicide; requiring managers to find new ways of preventing workplace suicide.
The effects of employee suicide
Most suicides have a ripple effect. Family members, coworkers and friends of the victim are usually the hardest hit after the tragedy has occurred. It might take many hours of counselling for those who had direct contact with the victim to recover emotionally, psychologically and mentally.
For workers who knew the victim personally or worked with him every day – whether physically or through a remote working relationship – his suicide will take a toll on their mental health.
As a result, their ability to stay highly productivity, to concentrate and to manage stress will be severely affected. Managers can also be impacted similarly if they knew the employee or supervised him directly.
How to prevent employee suicide
Fewer tasks are more demanding than suicide prevention. Managers who invest the effort often expose themselves to increased levels of stress and depression. This happens whether or not the employee ends up killing himself.
However, the effort can be worth it. A Manager who prevents suicide has not just saved a life but also gained useful experience in human relations and saved millions of dollars for his organization.
To help an employee conquer suicidal tendencies, a manager should use the following effective tips:
Recognize the signs of suicide.
Suicidal employees may act suspiciously or speak disturbingly. Managers have to recognize these signs and encourage other workers to be observant of suicidal behaviour.
A suicidal employee may express plans to harm himself, he may compare his situation to that of known suicide victims or he becomes isolative, sad and say that his life is meaningless after experiencing a trauma.
Also, employees who have a history of suicide attempts or have lost a loved one to suicide should be prioritized.
Speak comfortingly with the employee.
Engaging the employee in a personal, heartfelt conversation should be the next step. Show care, be attentive and listen patiently to him. Don’t be afraid to ask him if he feels suicidal and don’t try to advise him at this stage. It is best to simply focus on offering hope that help can be gotten for his situation.
It is alright to call 911 or other emergency response services when the employee admits that he wants to kill himself. Ensure that the employee is not alone at the time, or close to harmful objects while the emergency responders arrive.
The HR department could also be consulted if the employee admits that he feels depressed and has suicidal thoughts irrespective of whether or not he wants to kill himself at present.
Take proactive measures.
Being proactive is an effective long term strategy for reducing employee suicide. Educating employees about suicide and fostering a positive work culture are efficient techniques. Other senior executives can be encouraged to be proactive in dealing with suicide and measures can be taken to remove the stigma around mental illness. Regular assessments of the mental health of employees should also be prioritized.