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BESTFIT’s Vulnerability Index and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Updated: Sep 21

by Susan Alexander, PhD




Suicide Prevention Awareness Month


September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is a time for society to marshal resources that shed light on this painful and difficult topic and to ensure individuals that need support are identified and provided with the assistance they need. BESTFIT is here to help.


The Statistics


In the US, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, with approximately 132 suicides a day in 2018, the most recent year for which figures were available(1). While rates of suicide escalated significantly among all age groups between 2009 and 2018, middle-aged white men were the most prone to taking their own lives.

Then, according to a study in late June by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), (2) 11% of people surveyed reported having “seriously considered suicide,” with a high percentage among younger adults and minorities.


The Impact of Covid-19 on Mental Health


It is ironic that those behaviors that keep people safe from Covid-19—social distancing, isolating, and even using masks—are the same things that promote depression and other mental health issues.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (3) describes Covid-19 as creating a “perfect storm” for those at risk of suicide. Factors include:

· Economic stress

· Social isolation

· Decreased access to community and religious support

· Barriers to mental health treatment

· Illness and medical problems

· Outcomes of national anxiety, e.g., a 24/7 news cycle.


The Role of Business


In Spring 2020, a startling 40% of employees working from home due to the pandemic reported that not one person from their companies, including managers, had asked about their emotional well-being. Among those employees, 44.4% admitted experiencing worsening mental health problems (4). Those polled included workers from Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and the US.

The same study found that, of those who worked from home for more than two weeks, 50% are more likely to say that their mental health had declined due to “more chronic sadness” and “more fatigue.”

“Lower lows” were experienced across all levels of an organization. Decreased mental health was reported by:

· 44.0% of individual contributors

· 40.5% of C-level employees

· 40.1% of managers.

67% of employees reported increased levels of stress and 57% reported increased feelings of anxiety (5).

The problems were compounded by how employees perceived their managers.

· 35.7% felt their manager did not care about them as human beings

· 52.9% did not feel their manager was attuned to their well-being

· 60.3 did not feel supported by their manager.

With such findings, companies are presented with a substantial chance to demonstrate that they consider their employees’ well-being and mental health crucial to organizational success.


Conclusions


September’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month offers a significant opportunity for businesses to reassess their responsibilities in assessing and supporting the mental health of their employees.

Studies of victims of other disasters indicate that, even if a viable vaccine becomes available, the impact of Covid-19 will be felt for years. Thus the first imperative is to identify the vulnerable. The reluctance of people to discuss mental health issues, especially at work, makes this a particular challenge. An effective solution is the BESTFIT platform (www.bestfithi.com), that uses engaging, indirect questions and leverages gamification techniques to construct an emotional thermometer/vulnerability index. The resulting profile provides crucial insights to both the individual and those in a position to offer support. It is particularly appropriate to offer this resource during the Covid-19 crisis and in a month focussed on connecting with those in need.

(1) https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/ (2) https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

(3) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2764584 (4) https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/confronting-mental-health/ (5) Ibid

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