Suicide Prevention in the Workplace

  • Maggie G. MortaliEmail author
  • Christine Moutier
Part of the Integrating Psychiatry and Primary Care book series (IPPC)


Suicide is a serious public health problem, the tenth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fourth leading cause for Americans under the age of 65. The impact of suicide encompasses the emotional and fiscal burden of a broad spectrum of suffering with approximately half of the American population knowing someone or having personally experienced suicidal ideation, attempt, or loss to suicide. The demographic group with the highest suicide rate (19.72 per 100,000) is adults between 45 and 54 years of age, and most are employed at the time of death. As a complex health outcome, suicide is driven by multiple interacting risk and protective factors. Because environmental factors are critical in this mix, the workplace holds great potential for reducing suicide risk and preventing untimely loss of life to suicide. Several industry-specific cultural factors are provided. Promising suicide prevention initiatives are described including pro-mental health approaches, staff training, policy changes, screening, crisis intervention, and peer support.


Workplace Workforce Suicide/suicide prevention Mental health Crisis/risk management Employee assistance programs Workplace wellness programs 



Affected by suicide

All those who may feel the impact of suicidal behaviors, including those bereaved by suicide, as well as community members and others.

Bereaved by suicide

Family members, friends, and others affected by the suicide of a loved one (also referred to as survivors of suicide loss).

Comprehensive suicide prevention plans

Plans that use a multifaceted approach to address the problem, for example, including interventions targeting biopsychosocial, social, and environmental factors.


The co-occurrence of two or more disorders, such as depressive disorder and substance use disorder.

Complicated grief

Feelings of loss, following the death of a loved one, which are debilitating and do not improve even after time passes. These painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that those who are affected have trouble accepting the loss and moving on with their lives. Also referred to “traumatic grief” or ‘prolonged grief.”


A phenomenon whereby susceptible persons are influenced toward suicidal behavior through knowledge of another person’s suicidal acts.


Those individuals in a community who have face-to-face contact with large numbers of community members as part of their usual routine. They may be trained to identify persons at risk of suicide and refer them to treatment or supporting services as appropriate.


The instrument or object used to carry out a self-destructive act (e.g., chemicals, medications, illicit drugs).

Means restriction

Techniques, policies, and procedures designed to reduce access or availability to means and methods of deliberate self-harm.


Actions or techniques that result in an individual inflicting self-directed injurious behavior (e.g., overdose).

Mental disorder

A diagnosable illness characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional, or social abilities, often used interchangeably with mental illness.

Mental health

The capacity of individuals to interact with one another and the environment in ways that promote subjective well-being, optimal development, and use of mental abilities (cognitive, affective, and relational).

Nonsuicidal self-injury

Self-injury with no suicidal intent. The same as nonsuicidal self-directed violence.


Response to and care for individuals affected in the aftermath of a suicide attempt or suicide death.


A strategy or approach that reduces the likelihood of risk of onset or delays the onset of adverse health problems or reduces the harm resulting from conditions or behaviors.

Protective factors

Factors that make it less likely that individuals will develop a disorder or particular outcome. Protective factors may encompass biological, psychological, or social factors in the individual, family, and environment.

Risk factors

Factors that make it more likely that individuals will develop a disorder or particular outcome. Risk factors may encompass biological, psychological, or social factors in the individual, family, and environment.

Self-directed violence (same as self-injurious behavior)

Behavior that is self-directed and deliberately results in injury or the potential for injury to oneself. Self-directed violence can be categorized as either nonsuicidal or suicidal.

Substance use disorder

A maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to repeated use includes maladaptive use of legal substances such as alcohol; prescription drugs such as analgesics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants; and illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, and heroin.

Suicidal behaviors

Behaviors related to suicide, including preparatory acts, as well as suicide attempts and deaths.

Suicidal self-directed violence

Behavior that is self-directed and deliberately results in injury or the potential for injury to oneself. There is evidence, whether implicit or explicit, of suicidal intent.

Suicidal ideation

Thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior.

Suicidal intent

There is evidence (explicit and/or implicit) that at the time of injury the individual intended to kill him or herself or wished to die and that the individual understood the probable consequences of his or her actions.

Suicidal plan

A thought regarding a self-initiated action that facilitates self-harm behavior or a suicide attempt, often including an organized manner of engaging in suicidal behavior such as a description of a time frame and method.


Death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior.

Suicide attempt

A nonfatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.

Suicidal behaviors

Acts and/or preparation toward making a suicide attempt, suicide attempts, and deaths by suicide.

Suicide crisis

A suicide crisis, suicidal crisis, or potential suicide is a situation in which a person is attempting to kill him or herself or is seriously contemplating or planning to do so. It is considered a medical emergency, requiring immediate suicide intervention and emergency medical treatment.

Suicide attempt survivors

Individuals who have survived a prior suicide attempt.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American Foundation for Suicide PreventionNew YorkUSA

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