We need to focus on the root causes of suicide and help people feel okay about receiving help. There is no better place to do this than in the workplace, and this week is National Suicide Prevention Week, which gives us the opportunity to spread the word.
It’s important to understand some of the antecedents, like depression, because this is where the cure lies and where, because of our misunderstanding and fear, we often don’t act. Here are some statistics from the American Association of Suicidology that should open everyone’s eyes:
- Nine out of 10 people who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental disorder.
- Only three out of 10 people who die by suicide received mental health services in the year before they died.
- Depression is the most prevalent mental health disorder — 20.9 million American adults suffer from a depressive illness in any given year.
- Treatment for depression is effective 60% to 80% of the time.
A 2007 study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that depressed employees, who received “enhanced care,” defined as care management and optional psychotherapy, worked longer weeks and demonstrated greater job retention than other groups. This led to an annual average value of $1,800 per worker, which is estimated to be greater than the cost of “the outreach program and the roughly 10 additional mental-health specialty visits made by subjects in the treatment group.”
I realize that there are a lot of statistics that might make you zone out, so let me make what I am saying perfectly clear.
Educating the workforce about mental health and depression so that folks know that it is perfectly okay to seek help should be every employer’s goal. It is the right thing to do. It will also lead to higher productivity and lower safety and healthcare costs.
Once people feel comfortable admitting they have a problem, they will be more likely to seek help, which leads to the next thing employers or insurers should do. They need to have some sort of behavioral health service that will do a confidential but thorough assessment so that they can facilitate a referral for the right kind of assistance for each person in need. An employee assistance program (EAP) can help in both aspects of this process; education and assessment/referral/follow up.
This year, make National Suicide Prevention week the time when you kick off the process of education — and make sure that this is the beginning, not the end, of your efforts.
For assistance in doing this, visit the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Workplace Task Force.