Summer 2018 brought workplace suicide to the fore. Employees across the country, and in our own workspaces, have been affected by celebrity suicides and likely by family-member discussions, water-cooler chats, and other suicide-events too.
With Kate Spade (55 years old) and Anthony Bourdain (61 years old – days before his 62nd birthday) choosing to end their lives, hundreds of employees and thousands of investors have been affected. All of their customers and fans have been affected too: in thought, in conversations, in wondering what could lead people who seem to have it all make these hard life choices, and in remembering people we knew who ended their lives. These helpful life reflections take time, days, even weeks, to process. While we are processing, our ability to focus on the tasks and activities at hand is often distracted, or even diminished. This affects our home-life and our workplaces. Suicide is a workplace issue.
Supervisors and managers, please pay attention to your team members, to their demeanor, their ability to focus, to their levels of presence. Learn what is happening in their lives, enough that you can be supportive or offer support through your company’s benefit and employee assistance programs. What people feel about their own lives and the lives of others is real and has a daily impact on their ability to be present on the job and to deliver quality work. Remember, suicide is a workplace issue too.
August 2018, I stood beside an extended family member while a child was checked into a treatment program for a suicide watch. It wasn’t easy. It was tearful for all involved. Thankfully the child did the work required in the program and has started school this fall. Did it affect the workplace? YES. Family members and I were definitely affected. We were distracted, concerned, and unable to fully focus on the “paid work” needing to be done on our jobs. Are we still concerned and distracted? Yes, just at a lower level and our work is still affected.
An impending, attempted, or completed suicide is a complex and overwhelming place for a person to be, and for family, friends, and co-workers to figure out how to be helpful or supportive.
Here are some ideas for dealing with suicide (no matter how near or far away from you it seems).
· Call 911 if a suicide attempt is happening right this minute.
· Your workplace Employee Assistance Program has counsellor access. Find the number and call.
· Find your own counsellor and ask for help, insight, and information. It really can help you.
· Many states have suicide hotlines for help. Look up (your state’s name) suicide hotline
· National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Hotline): https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1-800-273-8255