Following rising rates of layoffs in Alberta’s oil and gas industry in response to low oil prices, suicide rates in that province have increased by an alarming 30 percent this year. There were 327 suicides recorded between January and June 2015 and it is predicted that number could swell to 654 cases by year’s end.
According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, Alberta sees approximately 500 suicides in an average year.
Workers for the Calgary Distress Centre note that there has been a change in tone with the calls they’re receiving, with calls becoming more frequent and callers sounding more distressed than in previous years.
In light of this worrisome trend, the province has increased its budget for mental health—a change that will hopefully mean more resources for distress centre workers and mental health organizations. And with jobs increasing in other fields, such as construction, public administration, and wholesale and retail trade, it seems there could be a light on the horizon for laid-off workers in Alberta.
At a time like this, it’s important for companies and organizations to consider their commitment to their employees’ mental health and discuss what preventative mental health initiatives could be undertaken at their workplaces.
Whether your company is facing lay-offs or not, consider who at your workplace could be at risk for suicide. These people may include workers suffering with serious illnesses or injuries; those abusing alcohol and drugs; workers who have experienced a major death in their families; or people of all ages who are struggling with difficult life changes.
Workers who talk about suicide, mention that they feel hopeless, act out of character, or show a sudden lack of interest in the things they used to enjoy could also be at risk.
If you sense that a colleague might be suicidal, there are steps you can take to help him or her. If you are comfortable with that person, find a safe place to ask how he/she is doing and enquire about the events that led to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Listen closely and do not minimize that person’s feelings by saying “You’ll get over it.”
If you are not comfortable approaching your coworker, or feel that the issue is beyond your abilities to handle, reach out for help. Talk to your HR director, contact mental health resources in your community for guidance, or anonymously give that person information on locally available resources. Your goal should be to get this person talking to a mental health professional about their feelings and accepting help before it is too late.
If you’d like to learn more about suicide prevention in the workplace, these websites offer some valuable resources: