Suicide Prevention on the Job

Recent data show how certain industries may be falling short on suicide prevention, so researchers suggests helpful strategies.


Many adults spend a large part of their time at work—making the workplace an important but underused location for suicide prevention, say CDC researchers who analyzed data on 22,053 suicides in 17 states. The US suicide rate among working adults (aged 16-64 years) rose 34% between 2000 and 2016, from 12.9 to 17.3 per 100,000.

Suicide rates rose in many occupational groups between 2012 and 2015, but identifying the specific role that occupational factors might play in suicide risk is complicated, the researchers say: Both work (eg, little job control and job insecurity) and nonwork (eg, relationship conflict) factors are associated with psychological distress and suicide. And factors such as access to lethal means while on the job play a part as well.

The major occupational group with the highest male suicide rate was Construction and Extraction (from 43.6% in 2012 to 53.2% in 2015. The Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media groups had the highest female suicide rate (15.6%, up from 11.7%).

Health Care Support, which ranked twelfth on the 2015 list, actually saw a drop in the numbers of male suicides (19.5/100,000 in 2015, vs 22.1 in 2012). But among women, the numbers rose 31%: from 8.4 per 100,000 to 11.0, making that category third among females.

With a 13% drop (from 10.3 to 9.0), Health Care Practitioners and Technical (female) moved from fourth to sixth place. For men, the category ranked eighth, with a rate change of 23%, from 20.8 to 25.6 suicide deaths per 100,000.

The researchers say better understanding of how suicides are distributed by occupational group might help inform prevention programs and policies. The CDC recommends a comprehensive approach, including strategies such as:

  • Enhancing social connectedness;
  • Strengthening state or local economic supports;
  • Implementing practices that encourage help-seeking and reduce stigma;
  • Providing referrals to mental health and other services; and
  • Reducing access to lethal means among people at risk

The CDC also encourages decision makers, such as employers, to create a response plan, should someone in their organization commit suicide.

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