Everyone has bad days on the job—a project that you put hours into bombs or a task you need to accomplish is difficult and stressful. But are some jobs harder overall on our mental health than others? Depression may be more likely to occur in some professions, research suggests. And according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, suicides in the workplace, while not commonplace, are on the rise. Their research, published in the March 16 online edition of the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine,” showed that 270 people committed suicide in the workplace in 2013, a 12% increase over 2012.
Men and those over 65 were more likely to commit suicide in the workplace than others. Law enforcement jobs -- police officers, firefighters, and detectives -- had the highest rate of workplace suicides with 5.3 suicides for every 1 million workers. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and forestry workers came in next with 5.1 suicides per one million. The authors also noted that minorities may be at a greater risk for workplace suicide compared to non-workplace suicides. Their research did not include military jobs.
This month’s “JAMA Psychiatry” also addressed the topic in a “Viewpoints” op-ed co-authored by two medical interns from New York who said that being a physician, especially a young intern, may leave some people vulnerable to mental illness and suicide. Doctors are twice as likely to kill themselves compared to non-physicians, and female doctors are three times more likely to do so than their male counterparts, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). According to AFSP, though, the workplace can be an ideal place for suicide prevention programs. Their Interactive Screening Program (ISP), for example, is an anonymous online survey that IDs at-risk people and connects them with support. The NFL and the Boston Police Department have used the program. The authors of the “Lancet Psychiatry” op-ed say some work programs, like one at the U.S. Air Force, have successfully addressed workplace depression and mental illness in a variety of ways. One initiative: The USAF designates certain supervisors as mental health “gatekeepers.” Their job is to identify at-risk employees and channel them to screening and mental health services.
Want more info on managing workplace stress? Read about APA’s Partnership for Workplace Mental Health. Learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s ISP program by contacting the Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Mayo Clinic’s article: Work-Life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control.
by Mary Brophy Marcus, health writer, APA
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