According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , there were 270 workplace suicides in 2013, an 8% increase from 2012.
Since suicide can be an issue in the workplace, it is important that employers are prepared to recognize warning signs and know how to handle both the employee and any resulting situations, should they arise.
It is rare for a suicidal employee to actively reach out for help. While the intent to harm oneself may not be clearly stated, there are several warning signs that may be observed by supervisors or coworkers, including:
- Significant loss, including loss of job, social status, finances, or close personal relationships.
- Significant changes in behavior or mood; withdrawing from friends, family, and coworkers.
- Loss of interest in regular pursuits, including job, family, hobbies, and activities.
If warning signs are observed, the QPR Institute recommends that three steps be taken:
- Question: Ask the person if he or she is thinking of committing suicide.
- Persuade: Ask the person to reconsider and seek immediate help.
- Refer: Provide the person with references for experts who are equipped to handle the situation. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. The company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a hotline such as 1-800-273-TALK are good starting points.
This is a sensitive subject and managers are advised to proceed very cautiously. Occasionally, an employee may be making a joke in poor taste that leads someone to make the wrong conclusion, but there may be times when an employee is in serious trouble and someone at the workplace feels morally obligated to help. It can be difficult to know exactly when help should be offered without intruding on an employee or coworkers privacy.
Suicidal thoughts or attempts also get into areas where assistance or job protection may be mandated under various regulations. One example is job-protected time off for treatment under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Another example may be reasonable accommodations for ongoing therapy sessions to deal with mental issues that are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If any of your employees are showing concerning behavior, please begin by seeking human resource guidance, such as Nextep’s HR team, to discuss the employers ethical and legal obligations, as well as additional resources for the next steps.