The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has designated September as National Suicide Prevention Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. In 2017, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States resulting in the deaths of over 47,000 people.
While there may be some link to mental health, not all deaths by suicide are due to a diagnosed mental health disorder. There are often compounding factors such as substance use, prolonged stress (job, relationship, financial), a recent tragedy, or loss or physical health issues. And COVID-19 has brought with it a whole new host of stressors and exacerbated already existing stressors. Access to firearms as well as a family history of suicide is also risk factors. Gun sales have risen in the wake of the pandemic. People without known mental health conditions were more likely to be male and die by firearm, according to the CDC.
A 2014 survey from the Center for Workplace Mental Health, a branch of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, revealed that one in four workers in the U.S. has been diagnosed with depression. From a workplace perspective, creating a supportive and healthy work environment by providing employees resources to improve stress management and mental health and reducing stigma around seeking help can play an important role in suicide prevention.
It is important that managers have the ability to recognize signs and symptoms of stress and depression in their staff and provide encouragement and support for their staff to seek help. While we know that there are many stress factors often beyond a manager’s control, being able to identify when an employee is struggling and utilizing the EAP for short-term solution-focused counseling can be beneficial. How can you help? You can begin by recognizing the warning signs that a friend, coworker or loved one may be struggling Be aware of any behavior changes that may be new or following a recent stressful or traumatic life event. Some of the warning signs can include:
- Feeling like a burden
- Being isolated
- Increased anxiety
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Looking for a way to access lethal means
- Increased anger or rage
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing hopelessness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
- Making plans for suicide
Should anyone you know express these thoughts or ideas, the first step should be to ensure they are safe and help them connect with supported services like the EAP. The EAP counselor can provide resources and referrals for additional services.
If you need help in a time of crisis, do not wait to contact the EAP, reach out directly to emergency services:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at:1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Allegheny County Crisis Services: 1-888-796-8226
- Westmoreland County Crisis Services: 1-800-836-6010
For more information on how21st Century EAP can help in your workplace, please contact Jane Zwier at 412-823-5155 ext 634.