Most people who die by suicide are of working age, thus the workplace can provide a good opportunity for suicide prevention efforts. Workplaces offer their employees social connections and a sense of purpose that may help to provide protective factors against suicide. In many instances workplaces already disseminate public health messages, and in some cases refer people to mental health services through Employee Assistance Programs. Co-workers often spend a great deal of time with each other and so are in a good position to recognize changes in mood and behavior.
Suicidal ideation, attempts or completions all affect employee morale and productivity. When a suicide occurs in the workplace, it affects everyone, and so it is important to take active measures to prevent suicide in the workplace and assist employees in learning to identify the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. The next step for the workplace is teaching employees how to respond when they notice someone exhibiting warning signs of suicide.
Finally, not all suicides can be prevented and so employers should have a postvention plan in place to address policies and procedures for when an employee does die by suicide to create an environment of support and caring. The Workplace Postvention Task Force of the American Association of Suicidology and The Workplace Task Force of The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention have collaborated to develop “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace” which delineates 10 action steps for dealing with the aftermath of a suicide.
The Working Minds organization is also dedicated to suicide prevention in the workplace. “Working Minds: Suicide Prevention Toolkit” is a training program available for purchase that assists employers in providing training in the workplace to aid suicide prevention efforts.
ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) are best practices trainings that can be offered to employees to teach them how to identify a person at risk of suicide and get them connected to help.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has an online session that addresses the significant problem of suicide among men in the middle years of life by examining the associated risk and protective factors, and discussing strategies currently underway to build suicide prevention measures into Employee Assistance Programs. Also discussed are the impact and costs of suicide to businesses, the responsibility of the business community to its employees, and available resources for prevention in this arena.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has briefs containing information for co-workers and for employers on recognizing and responding to warning signs, and resource materials related to suicide prevention, including programs and the roles of co-workers and employers in preventing suicides. They also have a guide for responding to suicide in the workplace titled “Breaking the Silence in the Workplace”.