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Suicide Prevention Month: ‘Employers can play an important role’

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Photo: Betka82/iStockphoto

Washington — September is Suicide Prevention Month, and OSHA is urging employers to actively promote available resources to all workers.

The month includes National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4-10) and Construction Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 5-9).

Suicide is a leading cause of death among working-age adults in the United States, OSHA says. Additionally, 2 out of 5 U.S. adults have a mental health issue or substance use disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Work-related stress can have an impact on mental health and, without proper support, could lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” OSHA says. “Workers in the construction industry are generally at a higher risk for suicide due to work-related stress factors including seasonal/temporary employment, demanding work schedules and serious injuries, which are sometimes treated with opioids. Not addressing the underlying stressors or injuries can exacerbate mental health symptoms and may increase the risk of substance abuse or even suicide.

“By demonstrating their commitment to a safe and healthy workplace, employers can play an important role in reducing stigma and promoting mental health. In return, they may experience benefits such as improved workplace safety, higher morale, increased productivity, reduced turnover and decreased operating costs.”

The agency’s Preventing Suicides webpage has resources on developing mental health and safety programs, so workers can get the help they need. Among the goals of these programs:

  • Strive to create a workplace environment that fosters open communication and a sense of belonging.
  • Implement a workplace safety and health program that proactively identifies and addresses hazards that could lead to injuries or illnesses.
  • Provide resources and programs that promote employee health and well-being, as well as support work-life balance.
  • Inform employees of resources and treatment services available for mental health and substance use disorders through employee assistance or health insurance programs, or in the community.
  • Provide accommodations and return-to-work assistance for employees seeking treatment or who are in recovery.
 

The webpage also has links to 60-second public service announcements in English and Spanish, posters, and links to additional resources.

“When you work closely with someone, you may sense when something is wrong,” OSHA says. “If you are concerned about a co-worker, talk with them privately and listen without judgment. Encourage them to get help. If someone is in crisis, stay with them and get help. If you believe a co-worker is at immediate risk of suicide, stay with them until you can get further help. Contact emergency services or call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.”

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