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Suicide Prevention & Awareness: A Call to Action for the Workplace

In recent months, mental health has been top of mind for employers, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, just as a diet pill is ineffective for weight loss without a change in lifestyle habits, boardroom conversations and financial contributions can only go so far for suicide prevention and awareness. Employers must take swift and intentional actions to prevent death by suicide.

We all have mental health challenges at some point in our lives. It’s time we take the next step, ask more deeply about what someone is experiencing, and if we need it, find help together. If you are concerned for a friend, relative, or colleague, don’t neglect taking action and if you are feeling overwhelmed yourself, know that support is always available and you can talk to someone about what you’re experiencing.
— Craig Blumenthal, Total Brain

Consider the data. Deaths by suicide have significantly increased over the past two decades, ranking as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 2nd leading cause of death amongst adolescents and young adults (ages 10-34). The ripple effect of one individual dying by suicide is consequential, personally affecting an estimated 115 individuals on average.

In light of these striking statistics, more traditional employee offerings are largely insufficient at addressing the growing number of mental health-related issues, including deaths by suicide.

Part of the impetus for [the rise in behavioral health issues and subsequent suicidal risk] has been that the traditional way of accessing mental healthcare is filled with hassles and complexity and often results in people simply not getting the care that they need. It is more important than ever that people — regardless of their background, location or ability to pay — have easy access to affordable, quality mental healthcare at their fingertips.
— Jason Richmond, Ginger

It is vital that employers take a strategic, multi-faceted approach to mental health that addresses organizational policies, environment and culture, promotes mental wellness and prevention, and expands access to care across the mental health spectrum. As we observe National Suicide Prevention Month in September, we challenge employers to consider fresh approaches to make a greater impact on the mental health of their employees.

There are several ways employers can take action against death by suicide:

Provide training to crush the stigma of seeking help.

Addressing stigma is most effective when it begins with leadership. Leadership participation can have a trickle-down effect, transforming the culture of an organization. Don’t know where to start? A World Without Suicide, a trusted partner of OneDigital, offers leadership training, employee education and helps develop corporate policies to ensure employees know the resources available and how to handle a peer that might be struggling. Check out this Stigma-Free Workplace Blueprint.

Encourage employees across your organization to share their stories.

Everyone struggles at some point. Normalizing mental health issues can help foster a more open and inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable acknowledging their own struggles.

Equip employees with mental wellness support.

100% of employees need mental wellness support. Providing employees with daily support can help prevent the development of more critical mental health issues. Partnering with a vendor solution is an effective way to boost prevention. While there are many self-guided mobile apps to choose from to encourage mindfulness, meditation, and resiliency, Total Brain offers a unique benchmarking tool that allows employees to understand the impact of mental health on their brain performance. The app also includes an assessment with the ability to triage to other company-sponsored resources such as an EAP.

Reassess current mental health care offerings.

EAPs simply do not cut it, with less than a 5% utilization rate on average. Employees need easy access to quality care across the mental health spectrum. Solutions like Ginger provide care for individuals for a range of mental health needs, including crisis intervention. Ginger’s approach provides immediate human interaction, eliminating barriers to getting connected to care.

Create a plan to address the aftermath of death by suicide.

Suicide loss survivors experience a range of emotions. By taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach, leadership can create a postvention plan, ensuring that leaders are equipped to provide appropriate support when death by suicide affects the workplace. A few examples can include increasing access to bereavement counseling and other important resources, as well as extended time off for affected employees.

How will your organization observe National Suicide Awareness Month this September? Just one tangible action towards addressing mental health can go a long way in spreading awareness and ultimately preventing future deaths by suicide.