How Employers Should Address Suicidal Employees

Suicide rates slowly returning to their pre-pandemic levels is a sign of things to come. In the United States, there were 47,646 suicide mortalities in 2021, up from 45,979 in 2020. That represents a growth of almost 4%. These statistics are creeping into corporate America’s fabric as employees increasingly seek help from Human Resources. 

As a result of this new influx in mental health requirements, companies are launching various initiatives to enhance employee mental health, including well-being programs, a company-wide mandatory week off, and employee assistance programs. However, what about crises? Situations where employees need immediate help?

Primary disclaimer

Important disclaimer!! Employees in immediate need or about to commit self-harm: help them to reach out in the following ways immediately!

Call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255, and they will help without judgment.

Call en español: 1-888-628-9454.

Deaf and hard of hearing should dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255.

Text HOME to 741741.

For those looking for longer-term approaches, I created the Top 3 “To Do” and “Not to Do” for suicidal employees, explained below.

3 Things Employers Must Do

Here are the three things organizations can do to discourage suicidal thoughts and behaviors in employees.

Improve Mental and Suicide Prevention Resources in the Workplace

Nurses are one of many professions where employees have endured trying working conditions and emotional trauma during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many nurses want to leave the field due to widespread understaffing, exhaustion, and aggravated mental health issues. However, there is a lot of employee stress in other workplaces; the construction, hospitality, and medical fields have some of the highest suicide rates.

Government and companies must significantly improve the availability of resources for depression and suicide prevention in the workplace. These resources should include better suicide prevention counseling and policies, employee assistance programs, and ongoing efforts to combat social stigmas related to mental health care.

Organizations must do a better job of stopping people from experiencing misery, stress, and fear to the level where they reach the breaking point and seriously consider suicide.

Use Employee Assistance Programs to Help Employees Cope Better With Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is a genuine and growing workplace problem, even though it might be challenging to comprehend. Like other mental health issues, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone. Employers must understand this unfortunate reality and assist employees in overcoming thoughts of self-harm.

Health and Human Services have a best practice program for assisting employees with mental health challenges.

“The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides assessment, short-term counseling, referral, management consultation, and coaching services to federal employees, and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Consider creating a similar best practice program within your company with counseling services, coaching, assessment, and short-term counseling.

Examine the Top Employee Assistance Programs for businesses such as Lyra Health, CuraLink Healthcare, and Cascade Centers, to name a few. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 304 workplace suicides in 2018, 11% higher than in 2017 and the most recorded in the twenty-six years the bureau has been keeping track of the numbers. The numbers continue to rise and are becoming even more challenging to measure because of the predominant work-from-home preference. Due to the new rise in the remote workforce, it is increasingly difficult to define where suicide may occur due to the definition of workplace evolution.   

The more you, as a business leader, are conscious of the telltale signs, the better equipped you will be to support your employees suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts.

Although suicidal tendencies in a person can be unpredictable and volatile, many people will seek help before attempting suicide. What should an employer do if they genuinely notice any of the suicide warning signs or statistics in one of their employees? There are numerous approaches to taking the next step.

Employers can frequently find services in an employee assistance program to aid staff members considering suicide.

Deal Appropriately With the Signs of Suicidal Risk in Employees as a Manager

Many warning signs of suicide risk are identical to those for stress and anxiety.

Changes in behavior, such as declining job performance, extreme mood swings, disregard for appearance, detachment from coworkers, giving away precious belongings, and interest in end-of-life issues like funeral arrangements, insurance recipients, or wills, can be signs of suicide risk.

Employees who are contemplating suicide may also:

How Employers Should Address Suicidal Employees 3

Inquire politely but firmly about any conversation of this nature that is directed at you or through another employee. Trying to clarify the situation won’t make it worse, and the individual’s first step toward recovery might be an honest discussion with you.

The method you use to refer your employee to expert assistance is crucial. Respecting and caring for the employee can encourage them to seek help and aid in the healing process.

3 Things Not to Do

Let’s now look at three things you should not be doing when looking to help employees deal with social thoughts or behavior.

Don’t Deal With the Situation by Simply Sending the Employee Home

It might be tempting for companies who are reluctant to intervene in their workers’ personal affairs to send a troublesome employee home for the day — or for a longer length of time — and pray for the best. It could be a big mistake.

Ensure that person is safe first before doing anything else. Find the worker’s emergency contact and inform them that the individual has made a threat or thought about suicide. Stay close until that individual can pick up the employee. Employers with remote workers can notify the emergency contact or, in an urgent situation, call the police to request a welfare check.

However, if you can avoid it, consider sending the at-risk employee into the care of the emergency contact if you know they are out of date and no longer get along with the employee—say, an ex-wife who is going through a contentious divorce. Look for a different contact. 

Don’t Personally Drive the Employee to a Hospital

An understanding boss might wish to accompany the employee to the hospital, but doing so could be dangerous for both parties.

You want to avoid exposing the management to the risk that, for instance, an employee driving to the hospital will swing open the passenger door in the middle of a jam-packed highway. Use the company car or ambulance to transport the employee to their destination safely.

Don’t Probe but Listen Carefully to Find the Right Assistance for the Employee

When you notice signs of suicide risk in an employee, you must talk to them and find out why they are having suicidal thoughts. But, the conversation mustn’t appear like an investigation of the employee.

If an employee reveals personal issues, do not delve into them; listen to them attentively. It will allow you to get to the root of the problem and, in doing so, determine the right employee assistance program for that person.

Final Word

It’s typical to freeze or make the wrong decision in a crisis. Your workplace emergency management strategy should include suicide awareness and prevention. Make sure supervisors and employees are equipped and know what to do and “what not to do” if they notice a workplace suicide risk developing by referring to the list above.


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