How to prevent suicide deaths among working men and women

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Suicide is a major public health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die by suicide every year, and many more attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts. Suicide is also the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years.

However, suicide is not evenly distributed across different groups of people. Some factors, such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and occupation, can influence the risk of suicide. In particular, working men and women face different challenges and stressors that may affect their mental health and well-being.

In this article, we will explore the latest research on suicide rates by industry and occupation, the possible causes and risk factors, and the evidence-based strategies and resources to prevent suicide deaths among working men and women.

Suicide rates by industry and occupation

A recent study published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed suicide deaths by industry and occupation in 49 states in 2021. The study used data from the National Vital Statistics System, which collects information on the cause and manner of death from death certificates.

prevent suicide deaths among working men and women

The study found that the overall suicide rates in the civilian noninstitutionalized working population were 32.0 and 8.0 per 100,000 among men and women, respectively. However, these rates varied significantly by industry and occupation.

The major industry groups with the highest suicide rates were:

  • Mining (men, 72.0; women, 10.4)
  • Construction (men, 56.0; women, 10.4)
  • Other services (e.g., automotive repair: men, 50.6; women, 10.4)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation (men, 47.9; women, 15.0)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (men, 47.9)

The major occupation groups with the highest suicide rates were:

  • Construction and extraction (men, 65.6; women, 25.3)
  • Farming, fishing, and forestry (e.g., agricultural workers: men, 49.9)
  • Personal care and service (men, 47.1; women, 15.9)
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair (men, 46.0; women, 26.6)
  • Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media (men, 44.5; women, 14.1)

The study also found that some industries and occupations had higher proportions of suicide deaths involving firearms, hanging, or poisoning, which may reflect the availability and accessibility of lethal means in different work settings.

Causes and risk factors of suicide among working men and women

The causes and risk factors of suicide are complex and multifaceted, and they may vary depending on the individual and the context. However, some common factors that may contribute to suicide among working men and women are:

  • Work-related stress and burnout: Work-related stress and burnout can result from excessive workload, long hours, low pay, lack of recognition, poor management, role ambiguity, role conflict, harassment, bullying, discrimination, violence, or injury . Work-related stress and burnout can affect the physical and mental health of workers, and increase the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide.
  • Job insecurity and unemployment: Job insecurity and unemployment can cause financial hardship, loss of identity, loss of social support, loss of self-esteem, and loss of purpose . Job insecurity and unemployment can also increase the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide .
  • Work-family conflict: Work-family conflict can occur when the demands and expectations of work and family roles are incompatible, or when the resources and support from work and family domains are insufficient . Work-family conflict can cause emotional distress, marital dissatisfaction, parenting difficulties, and family violence . Work-family conflict can also increase the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide .
  • Gender differences: Gender differences may influence the risk of suicide among working men and women in different ways. For example, men may be more likely to work in high-risk industries and occupations, to use more lethal means of suicide, to have less help-seeking behavior, and to face more stigma and discrimination for expressing emotional distress . Women may be more likely to experience work-family conflict, to have more exposure to interpersonal violence, to have more mood disorders, and to attempt suicide more often .

Strategies and resources to prevent suicide among working men and women

Suicide is preventable, and there are many strategies and resources that can help reduce the risk of suicide among working men and women. Some of these strategies and resources are:

  • Workplace suicide prevention programs: Workplace suicide prevention programs can include policies and procedures that promote a positive and supportive work culture, that limit access to lethal means, that provide peer support, that increase access to mental health services, and that reduce stigma and discrimination . Workplace suicide prevention programs can also provide training and education for managers and employees on how to recognize and respond to the signs and risk factors of suicide, and how to refer people to appropriate help .
  • Individual coping skills and self-care: Individual coping skills and self-care can help workers manage their stress and emotions, and enhance their resilience and well-being. Individual coping skills and self-care can include activities such as physical exercise, relaxation, meditation, hobbies, socializing, volunteering, seeking professional help, and avoiding alcohol and drugs .
  • Social support and connectedness: Social support and connectedness can provide workers with emotional, practical, and informational assistance, and a sense of belonging and meaning. Social support and connectedness can come from sources such as family, friends, co-workers, community groups, faith-based organizations, online platforms, and helplines .

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. You are not alone, and help is available 24/7.

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