What You Need To Know About Suicide ( And How Your EAP Should Help)

Nov 23, 2019 is Survivor Day, a nationally recognized day for those affected by suicide to join for support and healing.  Why is it important to recognize such a day?  As a leading Employee Assistance Program provider (EAP), we see first hand the loss and devastation that occurs after a suicide – for a family, friends and co-workers.  That’s why we know how important it is to talk openly about suicide and help employers understand how they can help their employees who may be in need.

 

The Suicide Rate Has Been Increasing

Suicide happens far more frequently than you might think. The suicide rate in America is up 33% in less than 20 years. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34 and fourth leading cause of death among 35-54 year olds.

The suicide rate is up 33% in less than 20 years

 

Why the suicide rate has increased so rapidly is open to debate. Alcohol and substance abuse, increasing rates of depression, the declines in the family structure and sense of community, economic woes, even smartphone usage have all been associated with suicide in one way or another.

What’s more mystifying about the suicide rate is the fact that the rate today is about the same as it was 30 years ago.  Death by suicide in the US declined in the 80’s and 90’s before reversing course at the turn of the century.

 

Suicide is Preventable

The reasons for the increase in the suicide rate may be complicated, but what is clear is that suicide is preventable. In 2017, 47,173 people died by suicide in the US. The number of suicide attempts was nearly 30 times higher than that. That’s over 1.3 million people who attempted suicide, but survived.

Survivors often describe that it wasn’t the desire to die that drove their suicide attempt, but a desire to escape pain. That pain can be physical, but is often mental pain. Mental pain can be difficult to acknowledge because of the stigma that exists around mental health issues.

Woman looking despondent

What Should Employers Do?

Employers can play a significant role in helping reduce the number of suicides. The first step for employers is to help eliminate the stigma of mental health. Too often, those who most need help are reluctant to ask for it. According to Suzanne Delbanco, in How Employers Can View Mental Health Stigma, employees may be afraid to admit, even to themselves, that they need support with mental health. Or they may not be aware that their suffering may be due to anxiety or depression. Those who do recognize the need for treatment may be afraid to leave the office for therapy appointments for fear that co-workers will notice. Many also fear if their employer finds out they have a mental health condition, there may be negative repercussions. A 2017 survey showed that 31% of employees say they would be afraid of being labeled as weak, and 22% fear it would impact their opportunities for promotion.

Employers can help remove the stigma of mental health and it’s in their best interest to do so. Here’s what we’ve seen work:

  1. Your EAP, if it’s truly a comprehensive EAP, can be your most powerful weapon in combating mental health stigma and increasing employee access to help. Beware if you have a “free” EAP embedded in a disability insurance bundle though as these EAPs are less likely to offer the full array of services found in a comprehensive EAP.
  2. Awareness and education are critically important. Your EAP should be very willing and adept in helping to build awareness and educate your employees. Initiatives we’ve seen work include:
  • Hosting lunch and learns and guest speakers on behavioral health topics in the workplace
  • Offering a monthly topical webinar for employers to use to educate their employees and normalize behavioral health issues
  • Providing educational newsletters
  • Providing special presentations to educate managers and supervisors about key mental health issues: mental health first aid, suicide prevention, PTSD awareness and substance abuse
  1. Work with your EAP to promote awareness of the services offered and promote easy access to behavioral health treatment services at company benefit fairs.
  2. Create a culture of acceptance. For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include behavioral benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing behavioral health. Also, incorporate language in company policies to prevent stereotyping and eliminate improper language/ labeling or bullying of employees with behavioral health challenges.
  3. Provide access to an Interactive Screening Program allowing employees to anonymously take a screening test for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, they can dialogue with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results and, if needed, connect them to the appropriate form of assistance – a therapist, psychiatrist, treatment program or self-help or support group.

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees with a convenient, anonymous way to connect with a qualified counselor about available service options through their EAP – and address their concerns before they escalate. Offered in association with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the program has been especially effective. As one participant put it, “I was finally able to let someone know how badly I was feeling without any judgment.”

  1. Develop a Peer Support Program to train employees to assist distressed employees and encourage them to access professional behavioral health services.
  2. Larger companies should consider placing behavioral health clinicians on-site at workplaces to assess, refer and provide short-term counseling. A 2015 survey by the The National Association of Worksite Health Centers claims that 45% of all employers offer some sort of on-site health clinic. Adding a behavioral health clinician to an on-site clinic is a natural wellness extension and further helps normalize the concept of mental health.
  3. As behavioral health professionals, let your EAP help you draft policies that permit employees to leave work to keep behavioral health or EAP appointments. Structure benefits and policies with the awareness that many areas are underserved in terms of psychiatrists, and alternatives to psychiatry may be needed.

Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma. Studies have shown that more accepting workplaces have happier employees with better productivity.

 

Recognize The Warning Signs of Depression

In addition to removing the stigma of mental health, employers need to learn to recognize the signs of depression and provide appropriate training for managers and supervisors.   Beyond the obvious benefit to employees, identifying and addressing depression is in employers’ best interests.  Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States, and the CDC estimates it’s also the cause of 200 million lost workdays per year, costing employers $44 billion in lost productivity.

Depression can manifest itself in many different ways: physically, behaviorally and emotionally. Physically, changes in appetite, aches and pains, changes in sleep habits and feeling extremely tired can all occur. Behaviorally, those with depression may exhibit irritability, restlessness, trouble concentrating or difficulty completing daily routines. Increased alcohol consumption or reckless behavior can occur. Emotionally, a strong and consistent feeling of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness may be noticed.

 

50% of those who die by suicide were afflicted with major depression

 

Your EAP or wellness program provider should be ready to work with you to develop training programs for managers and employees on how to recognize signs of depression.  Policies need to be in place directing employees on what to do when at-risk employees are identified.  Recognizing someone who is suffering from depression is important because 50% of those who die by suicide were afflicted with major depression, and the suicide rate for people with major depression is eight times greater than that of the general population.

 

Observing Survivor Day

If you are a suicide survivor or you know someone who is, please encourage them to reach out this Survivor Day.

To locate support groups, or to join other survivors in Survivor Day events near you, visit Espyr’s partner in suicide awareness and prevention programming, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org.  Or reach out to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).   Your EAP can provide support for survivors and help them access healing communities and other resources.  If you are not sure if your employer offers an assistance program, contact your human resources representative.

 

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in comprehensive EAP and behavioral health coaching programs.  Our innovative programs are designed to support our mission of helping people and organizations achieve their full potential. To learn more about how Espyr can help your company click here or call 888-570-3479.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing The Launch of Realyze™ – A Targeted, Proactive Solution To Employee Behavioral Health Conditions

For immediate release April 25, 2019

Marietta, GA: Espyr today is launching REALYZE, an innovative behavioral health solution that packs a one-two punch for employers. First, REALYZE identifies employees who have or are on the verge of having conditions like depression, stress, anxiety, PTSD or substance abuse. Then, it provides a proactive outreach ensuring at-risk employees are engaged with the appropriate behavioral health solution.

One in five adults will suffer some form of mental illness in a given year. For employees in high-stress jobs, that number can go much higher. For various reasons: the stigma of mental illness, denial or simply not knowing where to turn, the majority of those affected will not seek help. That’s bad news for productivity, absenteeism and employee turnover if you’re an employer.

“Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of employee behavioral health problems, especially those employers in high stress occupations,“ according to Espyr CEO, Rick Taweel. “Employers need a simple, effortless solution that will proactively engage troubled employees and align them with the most efficient and effective services. With REALYZE, in many cases those services may be the employer’s existing wellness programs. REALYZE will actually make their wellness programs more effective and improve their return on investment.”

REALYZE starts with a clinically validated online behavioral health risk assessment. Employees with moderate-to-high-risk assessment scores are contacted by a licensed behavioral health professional, a REALYZE Guide, who reviews the assessment result with the employee and may provide further assessment. The Guide then connects the employee to the appropriate behavioral health service, which could be the employer’s existing wellness programs, other behavioral health solutions provided by Espyr, community behavioral health programs or the employer’s health plan if long term counseling is needed. The Guide remains involved throughout the process, ensuring employees stay engaged, conducting follow-ups and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

About Espyr: Espyr is a leader in behavioral health. We provide a continuum of behavioral health care from acute and chronic health conditions to leadership development, all designed to help people and organizations reach their full potential. For more information go to espyr.com.

Contact: Jeffrey Joo

Jjoo@espyr.com

678.324.4177

 

The Surging Suicide Rate; What Should Employers Do?

Today’s news headlines that life expectancy for Americans fell for the second time in the past 3 years painted a disturbing picture of life in America.   The primary reasons for the decline? Increasing deaths from opioid abuse and suicide.

The suicide rate in America is up 33% in less than 20 years. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34 and fourth leading cause of death among 35-54 year olds.

The suicide rate is up 33% in less than 20 years

Why the suicide rate has increased so rapidly is open to debate. Alcohol and substance abuse, increasing rates of depression, the declines in the family structure as well as sense of community, economic woes, even smartphone usage have all been associated with suicide in one way or another.

Mental health and suicide

The reasons for the increase in the suicide rate may be complicated, but what is clear is that suicide is preventable. In 2016, 45,000 people died by suicide in the US. The number of people who attempted suicide was nearly 29 times higher than that. That’s over 1.25 million people who attempted suicide but survived.

Survivors often describe that it wasn’t the desire to die that drove their suicide attempt, but a desire to escape pain. That pain can be physical, but is often mental pain. Mental pain can be difficult to acknowledge because of the stigma that exists around mental health issues.

The role of employers

One in five Americans will suffer a mental health issue in a given year

Employers have a vested interest in recognizing the importance of mental health.  Employees suffering from mental health issues such as depression will miss approximately five workdays and experience 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months. This isn’t an isolated issue either. One in five American adults will suffer from some type of mental health issue in a given year.

How can employers help? First, companies need to eliminate the stigma of mental health. Studies have shown that more accepting workplaces have happier employees with better productivity. Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma.

Second, employers need to learn to recognize the signs of depression. Depression can manifest itself in many different ways: physically, behaviorally and emotionally. Physically, changes in appetite, aches and pains, changes in sleep habits and feeling extremely tired can all occur. Behaviorally, those with depression may exhibit irritability, restlessness, trouble concentrating or difficulty completing daily routines. Increased alcohol consumption or reckless behavior can occur. Emotionally, a strong and consistent feeling of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness may be noticed.

Many companies offer exercise programs or wellness classes such as yoga or meditation. Unilever, one of many companies that have established comprehensive programs designed specifically to support employee mental health, provides regular employee workshops on sleep, mindfulness and exercise, all of which have been linked to good mental health and psychological wellbeing.

One of the most effective ways to support employees with mental health conditions is taking advantage of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Comprehensive EAP programs offer information workshops and training for employees and supervisors on mental health. This training helps employees recognize the symptoms of depression and prepares workers and supervisors for actions that need to be taken when suicide prevention measures are called for. Employees have access to counselors through the EAP who are trained and certified to handle mental health issues such as depression.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re afraid to come forward because of the stigma of mental health. They’re worried about confidentiality or they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment.

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees with a convenient, anonymous way to connect with a qualified counselor about available service options through their EAP – and address their concerns before they escalate.

Offered in association with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the program has been especially effective. As one participant put it, “I was finally able to let someone know how badly I was feeling without any judgment.”

Learn more

As a leading behavioral health provider, Espyr has extensive experience working with employers to recognize and deal with employee mental health issues such as depression or feelings of suicide. To learn more how Espyr can help your organization call us at 888-570-3479 or click here.