Suicide is devastating and leaves loved ones behind to deal with a complicated brand of grief. A majority of a human’s life is spent at work, yet national workplace suicide trends are not documented well, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The authors of research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) took a closer look through the lens of a person ready to jump from the edge of their cubicle.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 41,149 suicides in the United States, totaling to nearly one million worldwide. Research efforts are being funneled to understand the psychological factors involved in suicides as the rates steadily increase with each passing year. Workplace suicide is one of the great proponents of fueling life-threatening risk factors, and researchers found because we often allow occupations to define our identity, a person’s psychological health can hinge on their job.

"This upward trend of suicides in the workplace underscores the need for additional research to understand occupation-specific risk factors and develop evidence-based programs that can be implemented in the workplace," the study’s lead researcher Dr. Hope M. Tiesman, epidemiologist with the Division of Safety Research at NIOSH, said in a press release.

Tiesman and her research team studied work and non-work-related suicide data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2003 and 2010, and found more than 1,700 people committed suicide. It turns out men were 15 times more likely than women to take their own lives, while workers between the ages of 65 to 74 were four times more likely than workers between the ages of 16 and 24. Men are more likely to commit suicide whether it is work-related or not, but it is unusual that older people take their lives compared to the non-work-related suicides. After looking at the trends, researchers believe a person with access to weapons (84 percent of suicides involved firearms) and drugs, and exposure to stressors and economic factors plays a role in increasing their suicide risk.

"Occupation can largely define a person's identity, and psychological risk factors for suicide, such as depression and stress, can be affected by the workplace," Tiesman said. "A more comprehensive view of work life, public health, and work safety could enable a better understanding of suicide risk factors and how to address them. Suicide is a multifactorial outcome and therefore multiple opportunities to intervene in an individual's life, including the workplace, should be considered. The workplace should be considered a potential site to implement such programs and train managers in the detection of suicidal behavior, especially among the high-risk occupations identified in this paper."

Employees At Highest Risk For Work-Related Suicide:

  1. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and detectives
  2. Soldiers throughout service branches
  3. Farmers, fishery, and forestry workers
  4. Installation, maintenance, automotive, and repair technicians
  5. Truck drivers and laborers
  6. Management, business, and financial operation positions
  7. Janitors, cleaners, and landscapers

 

Source: Tiesman HM, Konda S, Hartley D, Menéndez,CC, Ridenour M, and Hendrinks S. Suicide in U.S. Workplaces, 2003-2010: A Comparison With Non-Workplace Suicides. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2015.