Image courtesy of “The AW2 Blog,” by the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program.

Earlier this month, many countries celebrated “May Day” holidays.  But a “Mayday!” cry may have been an equally common event.

Sadly, April and May are typically the highest months for suicides each year.

Wikipedia defines Mayday as “an emergency code word used internationally as a distress signal… used to signal a life-threatening emergency by many groups, such as police forces, pilots, firefighters, and transportation organizations.”

But many businesses and organizations may be voicing that call this time of year due to impacts on their workplace. 

At Perspectives, we have seen a trend over the years in seasonal, suicide-related calls from HR and employees.  Typically these calls for help fall into three categories:

  1. An employee has committed suicide and HR is looking for assistance in helping co-workers.  Unfortunately, we have received several of these calls this year.  In these cases, we typically send a highly trained expert, familiar with the company, to perform an onsite assessment of the organization’s needs and develop a plan to proactively deal with the crisis.  As part of our support, we help HR counsel executive management on how to handle the situation internally, as well as publicly, and conduct group and individual counseling to employees as needed.
  2. An employee has notified HR that a co-worker may be suicidal.  In these cases we have an opportunity to help HR save a life and prevent a cascade of potential impacts to, or incidents in, the workplace.  We help HR understand the best way to approach the employee, talk to them about it, take safety measures – or, if necessary, to contact emergency services.
  3. An employee calls in.  One of the initial questions we ask someone struggling with personal issues is “Have you had thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else?”  It’s only one step in a broad assessment process to understand how to best help people, but it’s an important one.  It may be the very opportunity that allows a person to ask for help.  And, the answer to that question helps our counselors understand the individual’s level of risk and the level of urgency needed to help them.       

Our Account Managers, Call Center Staff and Employee Assistant Program (EAP) Counselors are well trained in identifying and addressing these issues.  But, I can’t stress enough how important the role of HR and co-workers are in the prevention process. 

Although there is never a bad time to use your employee assistance program, this is a good time of year to remind your employees that their EAP is a resource that can help them with a range of issues, including emotional stress and depression.

EAPs are there to help you before – and if needed, after – a suicide occurs.  Don’t hesitate to call if you need help or advice.  It can save a life.

Rick Kronberg, Director of Clinical Services at Perspectives Ltd, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with more than 25 years experience leading professional work teams, directing strategic planning and growth and managing operations of behavioral health and human capital organizations.

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