Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention in the Workplace: Policy and Response Recommendations to Help Employers Positively Impact Workers and the Work Environment: A White Paper for HR Professionals and Employment Lawyers
AuthorWorkplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee
Frey, Jodi J
Morrissey, John W.
PublisherUnited Suicide Survivors International
MetadataShow full item record
Other TitlesA White Paper for HR Professionals and Employment Lawyers
AbstractA White Paper for HR Professionals and Employment Lawyers: Executive Summary: In the United States, roughly 50,000 people die by suicide each year, most of whom are of working age. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in five adult Americans lives with a mental health condition every year. While rates for diagnosed mental health conditions vary by demographic, conditions like anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders are quite common. Yet few workers will get the support they need to establish healthy levels of well-being. In fact, a systematic review on suicide help-seeking reported that only 40% of adults aged 18 and older sought help for their suicide thoughts or behavior. Psychologically unsafe workplaces that are not friendly to mental health contribute to the gap between the need for support and help-seeking behavior. The failure of workplaces to address psychological safety negatively impacts employees and often leads to challenges with employee engagement, absenteeism, presenteeism, morale, and safety and error concerns. Of course, the worst outcomes of unaddressed workplace mental health challenges are deaths by suicide, overdoses, and the consequences of addiction. All of these challenges lead to significant ramifications for the employer and coworkers, including turnover and increased costs. Conversely, proactive investment in mental health promotion and suicide prevention offers the employer a strong ROI (Return on Investment). Contrary to popular expectation, more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Beyond depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, environmental contributors can also drive suicidal despair. These factors include workplace bullying and discrimination, relationships, physical health issues, and financial, legal, or housing stress. For employers, this means a broad approach to the mobilization of resources is appropriate—more than just a referral to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The focus of this white paper is to help employers recognize and navigate the complex issues of how best to support employees living with mental health conditions and suicidal intensity and to understand the policy and legal precedent surrounding best practices for prevention, intervention, crisis response, and postvention.11 It is written by practitioners and researchers who represent subject matter expertise from three different perspectives: legal, human resources, and mental health. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of mental health and suicide concerns in their workforce, yet most have not been prepared on how to respond. Managers and HR professionals are vital gatekeepers for recognizing individuals who are at risk of suicide and aiding those who need help. Many workplaces and professional associations look to human resources and employment lawyers for guidance on prevention, intervention, crisis response; and postvention, yet these professionals are often working under misguided assumptions and outdated information. The truth is that proactive investment in mental health promotion and suicide prevention is not only the right thing to do, but also the strategy that will result in a positive ROI for the organization and will help mitigate risk for the company. For important information on the Department of Labor’s Guidelines for Mental Health Conditions and FMLA, see Appendix A or visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/28o-mental-health.
CitationWorkplace Suicide Prevention & Postvention Committee (2022). Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention in the Workplace: Policy and Response Recommendations to Help Employers Positively Impact Workers and the Work Environment: A White Paper for HR Professionals and Employment Lawyers. United Suicide Survivors International: Denver, CO.
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