A recent study examined the uptick in workplace suicides and pinpoints certain occupations in which workers have a higher risk. In the United States, suicide is the cause of over 36,000 deaths annually and almost 1 million deaths across the world annually. Suicide deaths surpassed deaths due to motor vehicle accidents in 2009 as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.
The occupations that encompass protective services have the highest rate of suicide in the workplace, which is 5.3 suicides per 1 million workers. This is more than 300% of the national average, which is 1.5 per one million people. A person’s identity is largely defined by their occupation, and mental health factors that contribute to the risk of suicide, like stress and depression, can be adversely affected by situations occurring in the workplace.
Looking at the overall picture of life at work, including work safety, along with public health issues could certainly help us to better understand the risk factors of suicide and how best to address them. Suicide results from a number of different factors and there are multiple chances to intervene in someone’s life, including at work, and these should all be taken into consideration. The workplace is potentially a good place to incorporate suicide prevention programs and managers could be trained in detecting depression at work and suicidal behavior among workers, especially in the higher-risk occupations mentioned above.
A recent study looked at workplace suicides and compared them to non-workplace suicides occurring in the Unites States from 2003 to 2010. The data was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census taken of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey identified the number of people employed in each occupation. The Centers for Disease Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System supplied the data on the number of suicides that occurred outside a workplace setting.
Slightly over 1,700 suicides occurred within a workplace environment during this timeframe, making the overall rate 1.5 suicides per 1 million workers. During the same time, 270,500 suicides occurred outside a workplace setting, for a rate of 144.1 per 1 million people. When the data was analyzed across various occupations, it was revealed that workplace suicides occurred 15 times more often for men than women and nearly 4 times more for employees who ranged in age from 65 to 70 than for employees who were from 16 to 24.
Certain occupations have routinely been named as being at high risk for suicide, such as law enforcement, soldiers, medical doctors and farmers. Researchers mentioned one hypothesis that might explain this increase in suicide risk for workers in specific occupations, and that is the easy access and availability of lethal means. This would include medical doctors having access to drugs and workers in law enforcement having access to firearms. Stress in the workplace and economic conditions have also been associated with management level positions and people working in these occupations committing suicide.
Protective service workers include law enforcement and firefighters and these are the occupations at highest risk for suicide. Following those occupations are fishing, farming and forestry and these were the second highest rated occupations for suicide with a rate of 5.1 suicides per 1 million workers. Those who make a living in maintenance, installation and repair also were at high risk for suicide, with 3.3 suicides per 1 million workers. An aspect of this occupational category is automotive maintenance and repairs, and they too had a higher rate of workplace suicides, which was 7.1 suicides per 1 million workers, this being a fairly new finding.