History of Project
In 2019, the Workplace Task Force was adopted by the American Association of Suicidology and became the Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee.
In 2018 the CDC underscored the timeliness of this task force’s mission. In June, the CDC reported that suicide rates increased more than 30% in half of states since 1999 and that the drivers of this trend went well beyond mental health concerns. In fact, more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition and 16% were known to have job or financial problems at the time of death (CDC, 2018b). In November, a second CDC report (Peterson et al, 2018) found the suicide rate among the U.S. working age population increased 34% between 2000-2016. The report concluded, “Because many adults spend a substantial amount of their time at work, the workplace is an important but underutilized location for suicide prevention. Workplaces could potentially benefit from suicide prevention activities.” See: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6745a1.htm
Get full report of findings of this exploratory analysis
Together the partners underwent a nine month exploratory analysis to get a better sense of what employers wanted and would use in their efforts to implement a comprehensive and sustained strategy for suicide prevention. The framework for this “needs and strengths assessment” was based in a public health understanding that suicide is not just the consequence of a mental health problem, but that environmental factors also play a role. In other words, change comes from helping people and from changing systems and culture. In the justification section of the report many arguments are made for why workplaces and professional associations are essential partners in the nation’s effort to prevent suicide. The intention of this report and the subsequent call to action to implement “best practices” in aspiring to a zero suicide mindset is to enroll leaders and other stakeholders through a process of change — from awareness to action.
The collaborative partners embarked on a significant national data collection process that involved 13 focus groups and 15 in-depth-interviews whose participants spanned diverse roles, industries, experiences and geographies. In addition, the partners distributed a national survey, conducted a comprehensive literature review and studied other countries’ efforts in this space. The questions asked during this exploratory analysis included:
• How do we “bake in” suicide prevention into a workplace health and safety culture?
• What are the prioritized content areas needed and who are they for?
• What is the preferred format for the best practices?
• How do we make them interactive and incentivize engagement?
• How do we evaluate the effectiveness of the best practices?
• What are recommended marketing and distribution tactics?
When all of the pieces elements of the exploratory analysis came together, several themes emerged. These themes were then organized into guiding principles, motivations/barriers, integration recommendations, content areas, format/style suggestions, and marketing/distribution tactics. The findings resulted in recommendations for guiding principles and action steps.
In 2017, this task force forged a collaborative partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and United Suicide Survivors International to develop this nation’s first set of guidelines for workplace suicide prevention.
2016 – 2010
The American Association of Suicidology Workplace Postvention Task Force created a number of products including: “Firefighters Coping with the Aftermath of Suicide”, “Breaking the Silence: Suicide Prevention in Law Enforcement” training video and facilitation guide, “Construction Blueprint for Suicide Prevention” and a “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace.”