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Suicide Rates On The Rise Among U.S. Workers

Promoting social interaction rather than isolation in daily tasks on the job may help with suicide prevention.

Suicide, Life expectancy
A young volunteer helps set up lights in paper bags decorated with messages for loved ones during an Out of the Darkness Walk event organized by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. VOA

From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate among those aged 16 to 64 rose 34 percent, from 12.9 deaths for every 100,000 people in the population to 17.3 per 100,000, according to the study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The highest suicide rate among men was for workers in construction and mining jobs, with 43.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers in 2012 and 53.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, the analysis found.

The highest suicide rate among women was for workers in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, with 11.7 fatalities for every 100,000 workers in 2012 and 15.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.

“Since most adults spend a great deal of their time at work, the workplace is an important and underutilized venue for suicide prevention,” said study co-author Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC in Atlanta.

Facebook, U.S., workers
A man works in the war room, where Facebook monitors election-related content, in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

While the study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how specific types of jobs or workplace characteristics might contribute to the risk of suicide, lack of control over employment and a lack of job security can both be stressors that make suicide more likely, Stone said by email.

Many factors outside the workplace can also influence the risk of suicide, including relationship problems, substance use, physical or mental health, finances or legal problems, Stone added.

And ready access to guns and other weapons have a big impact on whether suicidal thoughts turn into actions with fatal outcomes, Stone said.

Guns may explain the higher suicide rates among men than among women, said Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Boise, Idaho.

“In America, with ready access to guns, men make the choice of death by gun, but it is the less likely choice by females,” Namie, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Hence, it is possible that in moments of despair that might pass if friends or family could intervene, with a gun handy, the decision is too quickly implemented.”

To assess suicide rates by occupation, the CDC examined data collected from 17 states in 2012 and 2015.

Data from 17 states

To assess suicide rates by occupation, the CDC examined data collected from 17 states in 2012 and 2015; the results are not representative of the nation as a whole. The results were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Although arts, design, entertainment, sports and media had the highest suicide rates among women, this category saw the biggest increase in suicide rate among men during the study. For women, the biggest increase in suicide rates was in the food service industry.

One limitation of the study is that it didn’t examine suicide methods. It also excluded two groups of Americans that typically have stressors that can increase their risk of suicide: military veterans and unemployed people.

Even so, the results suggest that employers can play a role in suicide prevention by offering worksite wellness programs, encouraging use of behavioral and mental health services, and training workers in the warning signs of suicide and how to respond, Stone said.

Also Read: Suicides Can Be Prevented, Says Expert Through Government Policies

Promoting social interaction rather than isolation in daily tasks on the job may also help with suicide prevention, along with creating a workplace culture of inclusion that does not allow for abusive conduct or bullying, Namie said.

The road to suicide begins when one employee begins a “systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction against another employee,” Namie said. “Bullying is the most preventable predictor of suicide.” (VOA)

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Haitians Who Lost Limbs in 2010 Quake Get Help from Disabled Workers

Wilfrid Macena was a welder who built gas station tanks for a living when the devastating 2010 earthquake toppled a wall

Workers, Haitians, Limbs
FILE - Amputee and prosthetic technician Wilfrid Macena leans against a tree in his yard as he looks at his smart phone, in Carrefour, Haiti, June 5, 2019. VOA

Wilfrid Macena was a welder who built gas station tanks for a living when the devastating 2010 earthquake toppled a wall at the garage where he worked and crushed his right leg.

He was unable to reach a hospital for seven days and his knee became infected, forcing doctors to amputate most of his leg. Several weeks later, he came to an institution run by Haiti’s Episcopal Church in downtown Port-au-Prince where a small group of disabled workers were fitting victims with prosthetics and received his first artificial leg.

“It’s like I got a brand new life,” he recalled, adding that one of the workers at St. Vincent’s Center convinced him to join their team, assuring him that it was similar to welding.

In July 2010, six months after the earthquake, he built his first prosthetic — a job that took him three days.

Workers, Haitians, Limbs
Prosthetic technician Wilfrid Macena works in a workshop at the St. Vincent’s Center, an institution run by Haiti’s Episcopal Church in downtown Port-au-Prince, June 4, 2019. VOA

Now, nine years and more than 3,000 prosthetics later, he’s still at it, and it takes only four hours. Most of those have gone to people like him who lost a limb in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake estimated to have killed 300,000 or more.

“We’re still seeing new patients,” he said, adding that an elderly woman who lost both legs in the earthquake recently came by the center. “She wants to move, go to church.”

The workers at St. Vincent’s Center were all taught by 60-year-old Emmanuel Celicourt, who is unable to speak and has been working at the center for decades. Overall, they have made some 8,000 prostheses since the quake, although now only about 15 percent of people seeking help are earthquake victims.

Macena said being an amputee helps him relate to patients and inspires confidence in them.

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“People understand me better than someone who has two legs,” said Macena, who also is captain of a soccer team and has taught athletes how to play with crutches.

He recently tended to Natasha Guillaume, a 9-year-old girl who needed a brace after she was pushed at school, fell and injured her leg. He helped lift her onto a bed fitted with a sheet of faded yellow flowers as she grimaced.

“I was crying at night because of the pain,” she said, adding that she wants to be able to run again with her friends.

Workers, Haitians, Limbs
Technicians Cereste Cherisme, right, and Jules Emmanuel, chat during their shift at the workshop in St. Vincent’s Center in Port-au-Prince, May 22, 2019. VOA

The center first began providing prostheses in the 1950s, sometimes at no cost depending on the needs of a person, said the Rev. Frantz Cole, spiritual director of the center that operates a school for disabled children, a medical clinic and a brace shop where the prostheses are made.

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“We try to provide service mostly to those who have nothing,” he said. “When someone gets amputated, he thinks that is the end of his life. … But [a prosthesis] is like a new beginning for a patient.” (VOA)