Teal and purple ribbon next to "Suicide Awareness and Prevention."

World Suicide Prevention Day was on September 10. I want to highlight some of the great efforts taking place within our Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech community to prevent suicide, starting with our friend, colleague and employee benefits guru, John Hansbrough.

World Suicide Prevention Day was on September 10. According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year. I want to highlight some of the great efforts taking place within our Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech community to prevent suicide, starting with our friend, colleague and employee benefits guru, John Hansbrough:

Solome: “John, addition to your work with employers and mental health and wellness benefits, you've also held leadership/governance roles at American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of suicide and what can or should employers do to play a role?”

John: “Leadership in the workplace are the single most important force multiplier when it comes to suicide awareness and prevention. 

Stigma and awareness continue to be misunderstood and undervalued aspects of suicide prevention. Given that 80% of those who die by suicide are in their working age years, employers have a particular opportunity to prevent, intervene, and respond to suicide and signs of distress.

The non-profit Workplace Suicide Prevention, a collaboration between AFSP, the American Association of Suicidology, and United Suicide Survivors International, provides employers a roadmap of 9 recommended practices, all of which require an awareness of the stigma associated with suicide and workplace mental health. Leadership plays a pivotal role in this process, and leaders must step forward when it comes to reducing job strain, communicating with employees and “going first” when it comes to authenticity and personal experience.

When leaders go first, express authenticity, and encourage and support others, they multiply their own efforts throughout their organization to prevent suicide and increase mental health awareness."

Go here to watch my entire session with John. 

We have some amazing individuals and organizations in the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech community who are driven to doing all they can to prevent suicide. Kristian Ranta, Founder and CEO of Meru Health, started the company after losing his brother to suicide. As Ranta described earlier this week, “For years, I wondered why he could not be treated effectively and how people like him could be helped in the future, before it’s too late.”  In a peer-reviewed study, researchers found that 48 percent of patients responded to the Meru Health anxiety, depression and burnout intervention, and 60 percent of participants did so at 12-month follow-up.

Other Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech partners are doing important work towards suicide prevention, including

  • Jaspr Health is empowering evidence-based suicide care at scale in emergency departments.
  • Psych Hub has partnered with Aetna to empower providers with no-cost, evidence-based instruction, tools, and resources to identify and treat those at risk of suicide.
  • Magellan Healthcare announced high-touch and high-tech resources to advance suicide prevention and intervention.
  • New Directions Behavioral Health announced that it has launched its annual Suicide Prevention & Awareness toolkit.

The World Health Organization offers some steps for employers and managers to prevent suicide in their workplaces:

  • Provide information sessions for your staff on mental health and suicide prevention. Ensure all staff know what resources are available for support, both within the organization and in the local community. 
  • Foster a work environment in which colleagues feel comfortable talking about problems that have an impact on their ability to do their job effectively and supporting each other during difficult times. 
  • Become familiar with relevant legislation. 
  • Identify and reduce work-related stressors which can negatively impact mental health. 
  • Design and implement a plan for how to sensitively manage and communicate the suicide or suicide attempt of an employee in a way that minimizes further distress. Measures should include the availability of trained health workers and support services for staff.