Shining a Light on Suicide Prevention: Creating Hope Through ActionAug 31, 2023
Every year, the world witnesses the staggering impact of suicide. Tragically, more than 700,000 people lose their lives to suicide every year.1 In Canada, more than 200 people attempt suicide every day and 12 people are successful.2 To raise awareness and unite in the fight against this global crisis, we observe World Suicide Prevention Day every September 10th. The theme, "Creating Hope Through Action," emphasizes the message that every suicide is preventable, and that every action, no matter how small, can make an impact.
Workplaces have a significant part to play in making a positive impact. By raising awareness, understanding risk factors, recognizing warning signs, and fostering a culture of compassion and support, employers and employees can make a significant difference in suicide prevention.
Risk Factors for Suicide
Understanding the factors that contribute to suicidal ideation is crucial for prevention efforts. Mental illness often plays a significant role, with nearly half of those who die by suicide having a diagnosed mental illness.3 Common risk factors encompass mental health disorders, substance abuse, history of trauma or abuse, social isolation, access to lethal means, and a lack of social support. Life stressors like financial difficulties and relationship issues can also contribute to suicide risk. Among these factors, a previous suicide attempt is the most potent predictor for future suicide.
Some populations are at a higher risk of suicide than others. Men's suicide rates are three times higher than women's, although women attempt suicide more frequently.4 Reluctancy to seek help is one of the main risk factors for men. Fears about appearing vulnerable or weak or even losing their job can increase feelings of isolation and rates of anxiety and depression. Also at higher risk include first responders and vulnerable groups facing discrimination, including refugees, migrants, Indigenous peoples, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Addressing mental health stigma is critical for fostering an environment where individuals feel safe discussing their struggles and reaching out for help.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide can be lifesaving. Employees and employers should be aware of the signs in order to access immediate help for those in need. Signs include the following:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Having a plan for suicide
- Feeling hopeless or without purpose
- Expressing unbearable pain or feeling like a burden to others
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- Drastic mood swings or expressions of anger and sadness
- Engaging in reckless behavior, such as increasing substance abuse
- Giving away possessions and making final arrangements
What Can Employers Do?
Employers hold a pivotal role in suicide prevention by creating environments that foster mental well-being. Actions to support employees include the following:
- Offer Mental Health Resources: Offer comprehensive mental health programs, including EAPs, mental health walk-in clinics with counsellors, and resiliency training.
- Provide Training Opportunities: Educate managers and employees about how to recognize warning signs, respond to crisis situations, and offer appropriate support.
- Create a Supportive Culture: Foster a stigma-free workplace where conversations about mental health are encouraged.
- Listen and Show You Care: Talk with employees to let them know they aren’t alone. Reach out to those who might be struggling, listen empathetically, and encourage them to seek help.
- Get Help Immediately: Always take suicidal comments seriously. If you believe an employee or co-worker is at immediate risk of suicide, help them contact a crisis line or call 911 immediately.
What Can Employees Do?
If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, remember that help is available, and you're not alone:
- Take Time for Your Mental Health: Practice resiliency to help you navigate life’s challenges, try mindfulness or grounding techniques to stay present in the moment, and take time for the things that matter to you, such as hobbies and spending time with loved ones.
- Reach Out: Confide in a friend, family member, or mental health professional. You don't have to go through this alone.
- Professional Help: Seek therapy or counseling to work through your thoughts and emotions in a safe space.
- Hotlines: Keep helpline numbers handy. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 PM - 12 AM ET). Visit Talk Suicide Canada Community Resources for the distress centres and crisis organizations nearest you. Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention can reach experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors at 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or can connect to the online Hope for Wellness chat.
- Safety Plan: Create a safety plan with coping strategies, emergency contacts, and distractions for when you're feeling distressed or overwhelmed.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Our team can provide you with the tools that you need to improve mental health and productivity. If you or an employee are struggling, our Occupational Therapists can provide individualized mental health support to help your team stay healthy and at work. Make a referral today or contact us to learn more.
We also provide mental health training to both managers and employees on a variety of topics, including building resiliency, managing anxiety, reducing burnout, and more. Contact us to learn more about customized group training. Or visit our store for our current public training programs, such as Inclusive Leadership Training.
 World Health Organization. (2023, August 28). Suicide. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide
 Government of Canada. (2023, January 9). Suicide in Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/suicide-prevention/suicide-canada.html
 NAMI. (n.d.). Risk of suicide. https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Risk-of-Suicide
 Schumacher, H. (2022, February 24). Why more men than women die by suicide. BBC Future. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women