suicide rate

A report issued recently by the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality documents a steep rise in the rate of suicide: Increase in Suicide in the United States, 1999–2014

Key report findings include:

  • The overall suicide rate rose by 24% from 1999 to 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 persons
  • In hard numbers, 42,773 people died by suicide in 2014, compared to 29,199 in 1999
  • It rose by 63% for middle-aged women
  • It rose by 43% for middle-aged men
  • The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006
  • The percent increase in suicide rates for females was greatest for those aged 10–14, and for males, those aged 45–64
  • The rate of suicide in girls aged 10 to 14, while still very low, tripled.

In a New York Times analysis of the report, Sabrina Tavernise notes that this suicide surge marks a 30-year high, and points to several recent trends contributing to the rise:

The data analysis provided fresh evidence of suffering among white Americans. Recent research has highlighted the plight of less educated whites, showing surges in deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, liver disease and alcohol poisoning, particularly among those with a high school education or less. The new report did not break down suicide rates by education, but researchers who reviewed the analysis said the patterns in age and race were consistent with that recent research and painted a picture of desperation for many in American society.

“This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health,” said Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard and the author of “Our Kids,” an investigation of new class divisions in America.

In addition to financial factors and drug-related deaths, Other cited experts point to a decline in marriage rates and an increase in divorce rates as potentially contributing to isolation and loneliness.

Employers’ Role in preventing and responding to suicide

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) suggests that employers can play an important role in helping to prevent suicide. Because people spend such a significant portion of their day at work, employers have the opportunity to observe changes in behavior, personality or mood. Training managers to be alert for and make referrals when they observe signs of depression and other early warning signs of problems may save lives.

SPRC points to the following warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Making statements like “I wish I were dead.” and “I’m going to end it all.”
  • Less direct verbal cues, including “What’s the point of living?” “Soon you won’t have to worry about me” and “Who cares if I’m dead, anyway?”
  • Uncharacteristically isolating themselves from others in the workplace
  • Expressing feelings that life is meaningless or hopeless
  • Giving away cherished possessions
  • A sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed or withdrawn
  • Neglect of appearance and hygiene
  • Sudden unexplained deterioration of work performance or productivity

Many suicide prevention groups suggest an easy mnemonic to remember warning signs: IS PATH WARM

Ideation
Substance Abuse
Purposelessness
Anxiety
Trapped
Hopelessness
Withdrawal
Anger
Recklessness
Mood Changes

If you observe warning signs or changes in behavior or personality, don’t try to diagnose the problem or find the reason for the behavior changes, simply help the employee to find professional assistance through your EAP or an occupational health specialist.Work performance can be a great leverage for getting people who might otherwise be reluctant to seek help for a problem.

Additional suicide resources for employers

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