Suicide Prevention in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers

If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis or emergency, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “HOME” to 74141.

Earlier this year, national efforts to meet the needs of people struggling with mental health challenges took a step forward as 988 became the official number for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline across the country. This line serves as an easy-to-remember universal entry point for those considering suicide or who are concerned about a loved one.

As mental health becomes a greater focus for the population at large, employers across the U.S. continue to look for ways they can strengthen their support for employees facing mental health challenges, both within the workplace and in their day-to-day lives.

For many, the question is a complex one: What role can – or should – organizations play in supporting a sensitive topic like suicide prevention?

Create opportunities for day-to-day mental health care

Studies show that psychological stressors at work – including low social support, inability to influence a person’s work environment, and high demands – are directly linked with increased sickness and absence due to diagnosed mental disorders. Fortunately, the opposite is also true: Employees who feel supported by their employer with their mental health overall are about 50% less likely to report mental health symptoms lasting five to 12 months. Here are three ways organizations can promote suicide prevention in the workplace.

Make behavioral health services accessible

Providing convenient access to both in-person and virtual counseling appointments can make sure that employees can seek out professional help long-term, no matter how far they are from the office or work site. For dispersed workforces and dependent populations, digital access especially can mean the difference between feeling supported during crisis versus isolated and alone.

Implement and publicize Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

For crisis situations, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are short-term, typically no-cost intervention programs for immediate challenges including addiction, grief support, and financial counseling. By providing organization-wide resources that address stress factors outside the workplace, employers can clear the path to deescalate some of the top circumstances that increase suicide risk.

Encourage a work culture of emotional wellbeing

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health & Wellbeing, the five greatest predictors of emotional wellbeing at work are protection from harm, connection and community, work-life harmony, a sense of mattering at work, and opportunities for growth. By destigmatizing conversations around mental health and supporting it through efforts like designated mental health days, time for therapy during the workday, and training for people leaders, organizations can support their employees through the good and bad times.

What we’re doing at Premise

At Premise, our providers are making a difference in our members’ lives every day, in big and little ways. We feel that it’s our job to make sure that all our behavioral health providers across the country feel confident and prepared when they interact with their patients having suicidal thoughts. We’re tackling that in a few specific ways:

CAMS suicide prevention training

Suicide can be challenging to diagnose and treat, which is why we’re now requiring training for our Premise behavioral health providers – Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality training, or CAMS. This framework gives providers the training and confidence to interact with a person who has suicidal thoughts and provide an evidenced-based treatment to keep them safe while managing and improving symptoms. Providers and patients collaborate over multiple meetings, working to identify the “drivers” that compel the person to take their life. This means that no matter how our members choose to access mental healthcare – virtually or in-person – they can work together with their provider to reduce stress, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation while increasing hope.

Our current behavioral health providers have a year to become CAMS certified. Moving forward, any new providers delivering behavioral health will have a year to complete it once they become employed. This method is proven to reduce suicidal ideation in as little as six sessions with a trained provider and can reduce emergency department visits.

Technology-enabled intervention

In addition to this impactful training, we have also worked closely with our EHR partner, Epic, to create and implement a “smart form” in their platform for this evidenced-based suicidal intervention. The form fosters a more personal approach to supporting our members instead of sending them to the hospital for care. It will be available soon to any provider trained in CAMS working within the platform, even outside of Premise.

Continuity of care

With all Premise providers utilizing training from the same CAMS framework, receiving behavioral health care will be even more seamless for employees and their families. Whether members get treatment through immediate intervention or an in-person follow-up, this continuity of care is not only valuable for an employees’ wellbeing, but it also keeps them out of emergency rooms and reduces medical spend.

It takes everyone – including employers, providers, and coworkers – to prevent suicide in the United States. We don’t always know who’s struggling, but there’s always something we can do to help – whether in-person or virtually.

Start building a foundation of emotional support for your employees and their families. Contact us today.

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