Suicide Prevention in the Workplace

When losing a worker from suicide, an employer may feel shock, surprise and even guilt. What signs were missed?  Could increased awareness of employee struggles be an ingredient for suicide prevention?

By Karen O’Connor:

Image: nuttakit /

My friend Arlette and her husband Dan ran a restaurant in Southern California for over twenty years. Each Monday morning they gathered their employees in a circle and asked each one to share a concern or a need so they could support one another with prayer and reassuring hugs.

Many of the couple’s employees remained with the company for ten years or more waiting tables and preparing meals. The owners credit this loyalty to the weekly practice of sharing and caring for one another.

“We let people talk out their feelings and needs so they could do their job without being weighed down emotionally.”

Imagine what would happen to the morale and longevity of employees at other companies, if more of them modeled this practice. I thought about this when I heard recently that one of my neighbor’s employees killed himself and no one seems to know why. Years ago an attorney in a friend’s legal firm did the same at home alone in the bathroom of his condominium.

Are employers to blame? Of course not, and yet such news is cause for alarm. Owners and managers surely ask themselves, as my lawyer friend did, if he could have done anything to stop his colleague from such a final act against himself.

None of us is fully responsible for the actions of another, But at the same time, those of us who employ others–or who deal with them through our businesses–can be an influence for good, whenever we are in contact with them. Perhaps the most important help can be offered well ahead of a fateful decision to take one’s own life.

When coworkers become aware that a fellow employee is struggling, they can show support and pray for them, but also direct that person to counseling resources and hotline numbers. Suicide prevention is multifaceted.

Like Arlette and Dan, a few moments of personal time, asking questions, opening our lives to the fears and concerns of others could make the difference between life and death.

Jesus said to his followers: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27 from the Bible).

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If depressed and suicidal, get help by dialing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline. IF IN IMMEDIATE DANGER of harming yourself or someone else, please call 911.1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or (in Spanish)
1-877-SUICIDA (1-877-784-2432).
Our blog, Thinking About Suicide, offers personal stories and prayers from those who have overcome the urge to commit suicide or lost someone to suicide. We also list resources related to depression, bullying, cutting and other mental health related topics or news.
Use our SEARCH box at the top of the page to find articles on specific topics. Our authors hope to encourage you and remind you that others in situations like yours have found hope and help. We hope and pray you do too. However, we also encourage you to get local help if you are suicidal: call a counselor or the suicide prevention hotline to connect personally with someone who can help you.

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