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Suicide Awareness and Prevention; What You Should Know

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. It’s a national awareness month that calls attention to an important public health problem. It’s one that many people attend to only when they hear of a well-known person killing himself or herself. Or it’s an issue we too often dismiss as a purely personal and unavoidable one. Suicide Awareness Month also calls attention to what can be done to help prevent suicide and the many avenues for assistance and effective treatments for those at risk. This month, when Americans are experiencing more distress than ever, let’s shed some light on this sometimes uncomfortable issue.

The data on suicide

Here are a few facts about suicide. Someone in the US dies by suicide about every 11 minutes. That’s over 47,000 per year. Do you know someone who has been a victim of suicide? Odds are good you do. About 50% of people in the US say they personally know someone who died of suicide – a parent, sibling, relative, friend or co-worker. Twice as many Americans die by suicide than homicide; four times more than those killed by impaired drivers.

About every 11 minutes someone in the US dies of suicide.

The rate of deaths from suicide has jumped dramatically in this century, rising from about 10.5 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 today. It is even higher among some occupations. Law enforcement, physicians (on average, one doctor a day kills him or herself), farmers, and professional truck drivers are especially at risk. It’s the 10th leading cause of death overall and the second leading cause of death among young people. Studying responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the CDC recently found that 1 in 4 young people had contemplated suicide this summer. Maybe that is not surprising given the disruption of access to normal stress relievers and supports. Add to that the fact that pandemic related social factors like personal isolation, loneliness, financial distress, and poor economic conditions are all associated with suicidal behaviors.

Women attempt suicide 3 times more frequently than men. But men are over 3 times more likely to have a fatal outcome from an attempt than are women. This is because men are more likely to use more lethal means. Firearms accounted for about half of all deaths by suicide each year. Most who die by suicide were experiencing an untreated or poorly managed depressive condition.

Signs to watch for

Warning signs of suicide include talking about wanting to die or being better off dead, talking about feelings of hopelessness, being a burden to others, or having unbearable emotional or physical pain. Dramatic mood swings or increased use of alcohol or other mood-altering drugs can also be warning signs.

Suicide awareness at work

Suicide is sometimes dismissed as not being a business issue, so some employers take little interest or responsibility for awareness and prevention. This attitude seems unfortunate and misguided to me. That’s because I regularly see how suicide disrupts the workplace. Our organization provides hundreds of trauma and grief debriefings every year for workplaces affected by a suicide. And we consult with dozens of shaken managers who question what they might have done differently. After a suicide of an employee, organizational productivity is impacted. The disruption to operations is real, sometimes long lasting, and often unpredictable. Employees and managers frequently wrestle for weeks and months with anguish and guilt from not recognizing warning signs or feeling they should have done more. Suicide of a co-worker can be especially impactful to those who are experiencing mental health conditions themselves, or who have had a suicide in their families.

What employers can do

I ask that employers join us in creating more suicide awareness this month among their workforce and in their communities. Communication about this issue helps de-stigmatize it and all behavioral health conditions. Ask your employees to support and encourage their participation in local awareness events and activities.  Employers can join the growing number of organizations that have adopted awareness and screening programs for their employees. These services confidentially and anonymously screen for suicidal risk and offer employees an alternative channel to get help. Employers can also provide basic mental health information or “first aid” to educate employees on recognizing severe depression or suicidal speech and behaviors and learn simple ways to encourage others to get assistance. Doing so normalizes conversations about behavioral health in general and reduces social stigma.

We are proud to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in offering services and creating awareness. Visit their website to learn more American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are concerned about a possibly suicidal person, call or encourage them to call the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-TALK (8255).

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, is the Chief Clinical Officer for Espyr. Norman has worked in the mental health field for over 30 years and is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health clinician.

About Espyr

Espyr is a national leader in mental health and achieving sustainable behavioral change. For over 30 years, Espyr has provided innovative mental health programs to employers, government departments and agencies, as well academic institutions.   Espyr’s clients include those that operate under some of the most challenging and stressful conditions. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

Sources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm?s_cid=mm6932a1_w

Peterson C, Sussell A, Li J, Schumacher PK, Yeoman K, Stone DM. Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:57–62. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6903a1external icon.

 

Why COVID-19 May Be Increasing the risk Of Suicide

Amy Morin, LCSW

VeryWell News

https://www.verywellmind.com/covid-19-and-suicide-4844295?utm_campaign=list_stress&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cn_nl&utm_content=20726506&utm_term=

Survivor Day 2019

Suicide of a loved one affects many more people that just the deceased.  It affects spouses, children, family members, friends and co-workers of the deceased.  Often it affects the entire business of the deceased’s employer.  It affects most anyone who knew the deceased personally or professionally.  These are the survivors of suicide.

Anniversaries of the suicide and the upcoming holiday season can be especially challenging for many survivors.  Healing from suicide takes time and each of us grieves in our own way, but too often in isolation.  Many survivors aren’t aware that they are far from being alone, and a great deal support is available.

Survivor Day, Nov 23, 2019 is a nationally recognized as a day for those affected by suicides to join for support and healing.  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.

If you are a survivor or if you care about someone who is, please encourage them to reach out.

Suicides On The Rise: What Can Employers Do?

Earlier this year, we endured a one-two punch of the suicides of fashion icon Kate Spade and author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain.   As always happens following celebrity suicides, a barrage of TV, news and social media stories followed exploring, in intricate detail,  how they died and what led up to their fateful decisions. Unfortunately, these tragedies – and the ever-present news coverage – often lead to more of the same. In a study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, media reports of suicides of well-known figures can trigger suicides in viewers and readers. When someone struggling with mental health issues sees that someone with similar issues responded to that suffering by killing themselves,  “It puts death on the table”, says news site Vox.

But these stories can also have a positive effect; they can cause employers concerned about the physical and mental health of their employees to evaluate their healthcare plans and determine if they’re doing enough.

Causes of Suicide

While the cause of suicide is not known, it most often occurs when the stresses of life exceed the coping abilities of someone already suffering from a mental health condition. In these cases, at these moments, stressors and health issues converge to create strong feelings of hopelessness and despair, something that seems impossible to overcome through any other method than death.

Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Regrettably, it’s more common for those conditions to go untreated. Depression is the most common risk factor associated with suicide, and it’s often one that is undiagnosed or untreated. Other risk factors include anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide.

Any of the conditions mentioned, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.

The Cost of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the latest statistics on suicide, and it’s not good news. Here are just a few of the startling facts:

  • Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30%.
  • Almost 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide – about 123 per day.
  • For every documented suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts.
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually in medical costs and work loss.

To make matters worse, since the stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, the CDC estimates these numbers to be higher.

The Employer’s Role

Those employers who currently provide some sort of behavioral health counseling benefit – better yet, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – are already going in the right direction. Same with school administrators providing a Student Assistant Program (SAP). Their employees (or students) have a place to go when they feel the need to seek help.

More comprehensive EAPs and SAPs, however, don’t stop at basic counseling. Some offer early suicide identification services and 24/7/365 intervention. Others conduct suicide prevention training activities on location or, in the aftermath of a suicide, critical incident trauma responses to help the rest of the community deal with their feelings.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re worried about confidentiality, they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment or they believe “things will just work out.”

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees and students 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. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employee/Student visits the anonymous ISP website
  2. Takes a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  3. Receives a personal response from an EAP counselor
  4. Exchanges messages with counselor – asks and learns about available services
  5. Gets feedback and encouragement
  6. Requests an appointment or referral

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 judgement.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your employees (or student population) deal with feelings of suicide – or any other behavioral health issue click here.

 

 

 

Suicides On The Rise: What Should Employers Do?

As always happens following celebrity suicides, the deaths of fashion icon Kate Spade and author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain have led to a barrage of TV, news and social media stories exploring how and why they died complete with as many details as possible. Unfortunately, these tragedies – and this coverage – often lead to more of the same. In a study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, media reports of suicides of well-known figures can trigger suicides in viewers and readers. When someone struggling with mental health issues sees that someone with similar issues responded to that suffering by killing themselves, says news site Vox, “It puts death on the table.”

But these stories can also have a positive effect; they can cause employers concerned about the physical and mental health of their employees to evaluate their healthcare plans and determine if they’re doing enough.

Causes of Suicide

While the cause of suicide is not known, it most often occurs when the stresses of life exceed the coping abilities of someone already suffering from a mental health condition. In these cases, at these moments, stressors and health issues converge to create strong feelings of hopelessness and despair, something that seems impossible to overcome through any other method than death.

Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Regrettably, it’s more common for those conditions to go untreated. Depression is the most common risk factor associated with suicide, and it’s often one that is undiagnosed or untreated. Other risk factors include anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide.

Any of the conditions mentioned, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.

The Cost of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) shares the latest statistics on suicide, and it’s not good news. Here are just a few of the startling facts:

  • Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30%.
  • Almost 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide – about 123 per day.
  • For every documented suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts.
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually in medical costs and work loss.

To make matters worse, since the stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, the CDC estimates these numbers to be higher.

The Employer’s Role

Those employers who currently provide some sort of behavioral health counseling benefit – better yet, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – are already going in the right direction. Same with school administrators providing a Student Assistant Program (SAP). Their employees (or students) have a place to go when they feel the need to seek help.

More comprehensive EAPs and SAPs, however, don’t stop at basic counseling. Some offer early suicide identification services and 24/7/365 intervention. Others conduct suicide prevention training activities on location or, in the aftermath of a suicide, critical incident trauma responses to help the rest of the community deal with their feelings.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re worried about confidentiality, they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment or they believe “things will just work out.”

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees and students 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. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employee/Student visits the anonymous ISP website
  2. Takes a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  3. Receives a personal response from an EAP counselor
  4. Exchanges messages with counselor – asks and learns about available services
  5. Gets feedback and encouragement
  6. Requests an appointment or referral

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 judgement.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your employees (or student population) deal with feelings of suicide – or any other behavioral health issue – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or click here: espyr.com.