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Employee Well-Being

Recognize National Suicide Prevention Week

Sally Spencer-Thomas | September 11, 2020

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Founded in 1975, National Suicide Prevention Week is honored annually and falls on the Sunday to Saturday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10. This year it fell on September 6–12, 2020.

Workplaces and professional associations around the nation recognize this week by taking the pledge to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority at work (#WorkplaceSuicidePrevention).

Findings from a national survey involving over 2,000 US adults (conducted by The Harris Poll) released in September 2020 found the overwhelming majority (81 percent) believe, as a result of COVID-19, suicide prevention needs to be a national priority. The results indicated most Americans believe suicide can be prevented (93 percent) and indicated they would take action if someone close to them was experiencing suicidal intensity (95 percent). That said, most (69 percent) were able to list the following multiple barriers to doing something.

  • Not knowing what to say (31 percent)
  • Feeling they don't have enough knowledge (28 percent)
  • Not feeling comfortable with the topic (19 percent)

The National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention can help workplaces and professional associations fill this gap. Last year on World Mental Health Day (October 10, 2019), three national suicide prevention partners (American Association of Suicidology (AAS), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and United Suicide Survivors International (United Survivors)) launched these guidelines. Less than 1 year later, 330 individuals and/or organizations have taken the pledge to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority.

During National Suicide Prevention Week, employers support the effort by sharing suicide prevention and grief support resources (such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line) and offering stories of hope and recovery that celebrate the resilience of people who have lived through suicidal intensity. The goal of the week is to reduce bias and misinformation and decrease barriers to seeking help.

Help the Cause

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers five ways you can help someone who may be considering suicide (#BeThe1To).

  • Ask "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
  • Listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless.
  • Keep them safe by separating them from anything they can use to harm themselves.
  • Connect to a support system.
  • Follow up and check in with the person regularly.

The National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention are designed to help organizations embark on the process of developing a comprehensive and sustained "upstream, midstream and downstream" strategy in workplace communities. Registered "pledge partners" are introduced to the "9 Practices" and have an opportunity to earn badges of engagement as they move through the action steps.

On October 10, 2019—World Mental Health Day—the AAS, AFSP, and United Survivors collaboratively released the guidelines. They were established by listening to the expertise of diverse groups like human resources, employment law, employee assistance professionals, labor and safety leaders, and many people who had experienced a suicide crisis while they were employed. Given that most people who die by suicide never reach out to a mental health provider, the workplace is arguably one of the most cross-cutting systems we have to help support people who are in suicidal despair. Visit for more ideas on how you can take action and save lives.

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