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Podcast: Suicide Prevention and Mental Health in the Workplace

Risk Management, Wellness |
Written by Kevin Lombardo

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Over the last several years, employers have become increasingly attuned to the importance of mental health as a key issue in the broader field of workplace safety. As more and more data emerge about how depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges impact worker engagement and safety, it has become clear that EHS professionals must incorporate a proactive mental health strategy into their safety programming.

Assessing the Problem: Suicide Statistics

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, particularly among individuals aged 10-14 and 20-34. However, it is prevalent among all age groups, with a total of over 49,000 people dying by suicide in 2022 according to the CDC. Research shows that men are significantly more likely to die by suicide than women, with roughly 80% of 2022 deaths being men. Rates of suicide also vary by race and ethnicity; non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native people and non-Hispanic White people are statistically more likely to die by suicide than other ethnic groups. Likewise, people who identify as LGBT+ are more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

And the problem appears to be getting worse: Suicide rates have increased by about 36% in the period between 2000 and 2021. Today, one person dies by suicide roughly every 11 minutes.

How does the workplace intersect with suicide?

The causes of suicide are very complex—it’s difficult and often impossible to isolate a single cause that leads to a person dying by suicide, and usually, a number of factors contribute to that outcome. The same is true of the effects of work and the work environment on suicide rates, but research has shown that several work-related factors can be associated with suicide. According to the CDC, the following factors can contribute to increased suicide risk among workers:

  • Job stress and low job security
  • Access to lethal means (such as firearms or medication)
  • Long work hours or shift work
  • Workplace harassment and bullying

Workers in specific fields such as construction, law enforcement, health care, and veterinary medicine are statistically more likely to die by suicide.

In the latest episode of DORN’s Injury Prevention Academy Podcast, host Cheryl Roy sat down with Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas to discuss her perspective on the suicide problem and how employers can help prevent deaths by suicide among their workers.

Dr. Spencer-Thomas holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver and currently serves as the President of United Suicide Survivors International. She has spent some twenty years in the suicide prevention space, working as a keynote speaker, educator, and task force leader to work with communities, companies, and leaders of all types to identify factors that contribute to suicide and find solutions that help people thrive.

In this podcast episode, we cover:

  • How suicide rates and risk factors have evolved since 2020
  • Employee perspectives on workplace challenges that contribute to mental health issues
  • How the emerging research shows connections between chronic pain, workplace injuries, personal isolation and mental health issues
  • How employers can implement solutions to reduce suicide risk factors and provide mental health support within budgetary and functional limitations

Watch the DORN Injury Prevention Academy Podcast on YouTube and make sure to subscribe for other exclusive content from the world of workplace safety.

You can contact Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas here: https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com

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About the Author

Kevin Lombardo

CEO & President at DORN Companies
Kevin is Senior Executive and widely recognized thought leader in workers’ compensation and Total Worker Wellness with a focus on workplace injury prevention and on-site innovative therapy solutions.
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