"Between 2003 and 2010, a total of 1,719 people died by suicide in the workplace. Workplace suicide rates generally decreased until 2007 and then sharply increased. This is in contrast with non-workplace suicides, which increased over the study period. Workplace suicide rates were highest for men (2.7 per 1,000,000); workers aged 65-74 years (2.4 per 1,000,000); those in protective service occupations (5.3 per 1,000,000); and those in farming, fishing, and forestry (5.1 per 1,000,000)."
From the recent study of workplace suicides between 2003 and 2010, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Suicide in U.S Workplaces, 2003-2010:
Aimee Swartz looks at the study data and the issue of suicide in Workplace Suicides Are on the Rise in a recent issue of The Atlantic, noting that In 2013, the last year for which data are available, 270 people in the U.S. committed suicide at work - a 12 percent increase over the prior year.
There are many factors that contribute to the rise. Mental health experts caution that potential causal factors can't be generalized based on occupation, but that job factors may present additional stressors that tip the balance. Individual factors such as depression, financial losses, mental and physical health issues play a role.
Swartz looks at potential contributing job factors in each of the highest professions. In law enforcement, trauma is high and a "macho" culture means that people often are reluctant to share or deal with feelings of stress that may be perceived as weakness, Plus, ease of access to a methodology may come into play: 84% of law enforcement suicides involved a firearm. In farming, isolation and financial losses are contributing factors. In the auto repair industry, many think that long-term exposure to chemical solvents may be linked to depressive symptoms.
Mental Health Daily looks at 15 common causes of suicide, as well as the Top 11 Professions with Highest Suicide Rates
- Medical Doctors 1:87
- Dentists 1:67
- Police Officers 1:54
- Veterinarians 1:54
- Financial Services 1:51
- Real estate 1:38
- Electricians 1:36
- Lawyers 1:33
- Farmers 1:32
- Pharmacists 1:29
- Chemists 1:28
Farmer suicides on the rise
Madeleine Thomas of Grist takes a deeper look at farmer suicides in her excellent article How can we stop farmer suicides? Thomas says that "farmer suicides tend to increase when farm economics falter." Rates were high during the farm crisis of the 1980s, when more than 900 farmers took their own lives. Many mental health experts fear that current hardships may lead to an increase in farmer suicides. Calls to hotlines are spiking, with droughts, cold, heavy snow and other climactic woes taking a deep financial toll.
Other factors include the isolated, insular nature of rural farming and easy access to weapons. When the business of farming falters for family farms, it can be ruinous for families, and farmers are often unprepared for other professions.
Experts say that behavioral health in farming populations is an underfunded and often ignored public health issue, particularly in an era when funds for the CDC and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health are scarce and funding priorities compete.
"Behavioral health is the area of healthcare that agricultural people understand the least well," says Michael Rosmann, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in agricultural behavioral health and one of the field's leading researchers. "It is the area that probably is in most need of research and clarification so that we improve the understanding and treatment of behavioral health issues." Rosmann and other experts believe the country's rural agricultural population should be classified as a health disparity group, which according to the CDC, would mean that farmers consistently face greater barriers to proper healthcare due to the unique environmental, cultural, and economic factors. If farmers and rural America were more widely recognized as a health disparity, more government funding could be directed toward addressing the issue."
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) 1-800-273-8255