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Our nation saw an alarming 40% increase in suicide deaths in 2017, when nearly 38,000 people of working-age died by suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks and reports on suicide rates in the United States.
This concerning rise led the CDC to analyze suicide deaths by industry and occupation to better understand how to address prevention. The data came from 32 states and represented 15,779 reported deaths by suicide in 2016. Occupation groups were defined using the US Department of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification system.
The data showed that suicide deaths for men (27.4 per 100,000) were considerably higher than for women (7.7 per 100,000). It also showed that suicide deaths were highest in these five major industry groups:
- Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction
- Other Services, like automotive repair
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting
- Transportation and Warehousing
Suicide rates were also significantly higher in these six occupational groups with data again showing suicide rates higher for men than for women in all six groups:
- Construction and Extraction
- Installation, Maintenance and Repair
- Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
- Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
- Transportation and Material Moving
- Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance
Updated research is needed to better understand work-related risk factors for suicide. However previous research cited by the CDC shows that suicide risk is associated with the following factors:
- Low-skilled work
- Lower education
- Lower socioeconomic status
- Work-related access to lethal means
- Job stress associated with poor supervisory and colleague support, low job control, and job insecurity
Although the industries and occupations cited above showed the highest rates of suicides, every industry and occupation would benefit from better understanding and implementing suicide prevention strategies. Here are eight strategies recommended by the CDC and with the best available evidence to help prevent suicide:
- Promoting help-seeking behavior, especially for mental health and substance misuse care
- Integrating workplace health and safety and wellness programs to advance the overall well-being of workers
- Referring workers to financial and other helping services
- Facilitating time off and benefits to cover supportive services
- Training personnel to detect and appropriately respond to suicide risk
- Creating opportunities for employee social connectedness
- Reducing access to lethal means among persons at risk
- Creating a crisis response plan sensitive to the needs of co-workers, friends, family, and others who might also be at risk
Beyond the workplace, other community-based strategies cited by the CDC include the following:
- Strengthening economic supports
- Strengthening access and delivery of care
- Teaching coping and problem-solving skills
- Responsibly reporting suicide by avoiding details that may contribute to contagion
People spend a considerable amount of time at work, making it a key location to NOTICE a person who may be experiencing distress, TALK by checking in and letting the person know that you care, and ACT by connecting the person to services and supports.
Sometimes all a person needs is a calm listening ear, a caring colleague and to know that they are not alone. Other times, people need a connection with mental health or crisis services. We can all make a difference in reversing the rising suicide rates in our nation, regardless of our industry or occupation.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273- 8255
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 (US/Canada)
Updated September 2020;
Peterson C, Sussell A, Li J, Schumacher PK, Yeoman K, Stone DM. Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation – National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:57-62.