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Suicide Prevention: What Managers Need To Know

September is Suicide Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide takes the lives of nearly 46,000 Americans each year. The majority of these deaths are among working-age adults, ages 24-64.

As a manager, supervisor or people leader, you’re in a unique role where you support prevention and awareness. We do not expect that every people leader should be able to conduct a clinical assessment and want to share some tips to help support people leaders in connecting team members in distress to the appropriate resources. 

The following information is excerpted from an article titled, The Role of Managers in Preventing Suicide in the Workplace. It was created by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), a federally funded organization that uses research and information to prevent suicide deaths.

Be alert to problems that increase suicide risk

You may notice problems facing your employees that may put them at risk for suicide. There are many risk factors for suicide. Some of the most significant ones are:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Mood and anxiety disorders, e.g., depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Access to a means to kill oneself

Suicide risk is usually greater among people with more than one risk factor. For individuals who are already at risk, a “triggering” event causing shame or despair may make them more likely to attempt suicide. These events may include relationship problems or breakups, problems at work, financial hardships, legal difficulties, and worsening health. Even though most people with risk factors will not attempt suicide, they should be evaluated by a professional.

Look for signs of immediate risk for suicide

Some behaviors may mean a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following signs should prompt you to take action right away:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

If the danger of self-harm seems imminent, call 911. Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help. 

If you are uncertain about the degree of concern but are confident that an individual is not at immediate risk, contact your Assistance Program or HR Department for professional consultation on the most appropriate response and support available. Your Assistance Program is here to help, and can provide information about informal referrals, resources, and best practices for supporting individuals in need.

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