Suicide Awareness and Prevention for the Workplace

The suicide of a coworker will negatively impact your entire organization and increase risk for the ones left behind. Give your employees the power of knowing the warning signs of suicide and the skills they need to act when they see them. This workshop also provides resources for local and national suicide prevention support.

Youth Suicide Prevention

After 10 years working in the suicide prevention field, Mary Jadwisiak provides a series of workshops targeted to end youth suicide. Workshops for Parents, School Staff and community members are based on the latest research and promote skill building.

30 – 90 minutes

ASIST — Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training

Go the next step. Take this 2-day interactive workshop to learn suicide intervention skills. This workshop is highly recommended for HR personnel or any professional working closely with the public. The curriculum prepares gatekeepers to integrate intervention principles into everyday practices. Skills and principles are illustrated by case studies presented in video and live dramatizations. Participants have multiple opportunities to practice skills in role-playing simulations and to engage in highly interactive discussions with other participants and workshop trainers. Each participant receives a Suicide Intervention Handbook CD.

Messaging Matters – Containing Contagion

How we talk about suicide matters. Knowing how to talk with media about reporting on suicide is essential to engage them in responsible reporting of prevention efforts. This workshop and keynote is based on industry standards for safely working with media.

Workplace Suicide Prevention: Top Three Systematic And Proven Steps For Saving Employees’ Lives

workplace-suicide-preventionTalking about suicide is tough.  It’s a difficult subject that makes people avert their eyes and lower their voices.  But the truth is, if we want to stop suicide and make our communities and companies safer, we have to talk about it:  Out load and up close.   Let’s start with just how serious an issue it is.

  • At any given time, approximately 5% of your workforce is considering suicide.
  • In 2010 over 38,350 people killed themselves in the United States.  This is a tragedy that leaves families and loved ones reeling with disbelief and confusion.  But the loss doesn’t stop there.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 85 percent of all suicides occur among the nation’s workforce, Americans ages 25-65.
  • The impact of suicide on a corporate family consisting of 100,000 employees, with an average of 4 blood relatives per employee, includes:
    • The loss of one employee or family member to suicide every 7 days.
    • Three suicide attempts every day since there are about 25 nonfatal suicide attempts for every reported suicide. (This is a very conservative estimate.)
    •  Some of these attempts result in a significant medical injury and disability, which directly impacts health care costs, particularly for self-insured companies.
      • Paul Quinnett, PhD, Director, the QPR Institute, Spokane, Wash
  • The annual cost of workforce-related suicides has been calculated by Research America to be approximately $13 billion in 2005 dollars.  Research America fact sheet 21

As for veterans, well, although the VA has only been tracking war veteran suicides since 2008, it’s clear that veteran suicide rates appear significantly higher than those among comparable civilians.  On average 22 Veterans die from suicide each day.  That is not a misprint – each day. If your company hires Veterans, a suicide prevention program is essential for your workplace.

“So, what can we do?”   You’re wondering.   “This is too big for us”.  The good news is that there are proven techniques that can help connect people at risk of suicide with help and support.  No company is too small or too big to implement some strategic, uniform suicide prevention efforts that involve the entire company from parking lot attendant to senior management.

Step 1.  Talk about it.

Bring suicide prevention and veterans suicide prevention out of the darkness and into the boardroom, break room, or cubicle cluster.  Create a culture where discussing suicide prevention, resources and warning signs is part of your corporate culture.  TALKING ABOUT SUICIDE WILL NOT CREATE CONTAGION.  Talking about suicide saves lives.  Note:  Ensure that any media campaign follows media safety guidelines as provided by the American Association of Suicidology.

 Step 2.  Educate your workforce. 

There are some very good training programs out there that will help to educate your workforce about the warning signs for suicide.  But, a good program also teaches skills.  That is, what to do when you see those warning signs.  Everyone needs to learn a few awareness skills, such as:

a)     How to ask the question – “Are you thinking of Suicide?”  “Are you so sad you want to kill yourself?”
b)    What to do and where to go for help. – National Suicide Prevention numbers, local crisis numbers and resources for Veterans Suicide Prevention; and
c)     Corporate policies and procedures for helping a person at risk of suicide and/or EAP options.

Some employees like direct managers and HR personnel need to know more, like how to do an intervention and work directly with a person at risk of suicide to create a plan for safety.  Many companies use a tiered approach to skill building based on a person’s position within the workforce.

Step 3.  Create a suicide safer corporate culture. 

Educating people about suicide prevention and empowering them to ask their co-workers directly about suicide is fantastic, as long as employees know they will be supported in their efforts.  Consistent implementation of clear company policies and procedures is necessary to avoid the appearance of punishment for disrupting production or missing goals while helping someone at risk. Clear policies make it easy for everyone to have a hand in saving lives.

Getting Help Works!  Where there is help, there is hope.  You can make a difference by bringing these strategies into your workplace.

For each suicide prevented, the United States could save an average of $1,182,559 in medical expenses ($3,875) and lost productivity ($1,178,684). Research America fact sheet 21 .  More importantly, people thinking of suicide get the help and support they need to heal and move on with their lives.

Ask About Suicide, Already!

Is it really OK to ask about suicide?  Really?  YESASK Already.

People thinking of suicide are conflicted and in a lot of pain.  They want to talk about the situation, but they don’t know if you want to hear it.  They send off warning signs sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, because they want to stay alive.  They are waiting for you to bring it up.

People thinking of suicide are waiting for you to ask:  Ask directly; ask clearly; ask it again until you’re sure you believe the answer.

People tell me, “That seems harsh”.  “It feels very intrusive”  “I’m too awkward to just outright ask”.

So let me tell you – when you ask directly about suicide in a caring way, people will answer you honestly and directly.   Often people are relieved to have an opportunity to talk about their pain.  Besides – what’s the worst that could happen?  You’re embarrassed?  How does that compare with saving a person’s life?

So, let me help you out.  There is a formula you can use that will simplify everything.  I call it the “no dodge” question.  Make sure your questions is:

  1.  In the present tense – right now are you thinking of suicide?
  2. A Yes or no question – this is not the time to discuss the politics of suicide.  Yes or no – do you want to kill yourself?
  3. Using the word “suicide” or “kill yourself” – Euphemisms are not helpful here.  Asking directly tells the person you are willing to talk about suicide.

Here is an example:

“You are very upset about this [breakup, job loss, mistake whatever the problem is].  Sometimes when people experience this type of loss, they think of suicide.  Are you thinking of suicide?”

One more thing – asking about suicide will NOT plant the seed.  Not asking about suicide puts the person’s life at greater risk.

Once the person is talking with you, get help.  Call your local crisis line or the national suicide prevention hotline.  Here are some more resources to help you out.

National Suicide Prevention Hotlines
1-800 273-TALK (273-8255) press 1 for Veteran support
1-800- Suicide (784-2433) press 1 for Veteran support
1-866- 4U Trevor (488-7386) – GLBT support

On-line Resources (on-line chat available)