The workplace is a relatively untapped environment for social work education, prevention, and intervention, despite the fact that adults spend a majority of their time at work and interacting with managers and coworkers. The need for social workers in the workplace has never been greater as workplace leaders realize and embrace the need to improve working conditions with improved policies and programs that foster a culture of health and well-being and support psychological safety in the workplace. Social work values and ethics permeate all areas of the workplace with behavioral health, DE&I, equity, and social justice. These values, ethics, and practice mandates are informing workplace leadership on ways to improve conditions and treatment for their most valuable asset - their employees.
Dr. Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP is a Full Professor with tenure at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. She serves as Associate Dean for Research and chairs the Social Work in the Workplace & Employee Assistance Sub-specialization. She is also the Founder and Faculty Executive Director of the recently launched Behavioral Health and Well-Being Lab (BHWell Lab). For the past 10 years, she chaired the Financial Social Work Initiative. Dr. Frey’s research focuses on adult and emerging adult behavioral health and well-being with an emphasis on suicide prevention, mental health, substance use, and the workplace. She has published over 100 articles, books, and book chapters, in addition to presenting her research regularly at national and international conferences. Dr. Frey co-chairs the Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee where she is helping to lead the dissemination of the National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention. You can follow Dr. Frey on Twitter at @JodiJFrey.
The majority of adults who experience mental health problems, including suicide, are in the workforce (Peterson et la., 2020; World Health Organization, 2006). However, the majority of workplaces are not prepared to help employees who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors in an attempt to prevent suicide, nor are most prepared to cope with the aftermath of an employee suicide with appropriate and effective postvention practices.
While many employers offer basic mental health and wellness programs, these programs are often underutilized due to barriers such as stigma. When employees do seek help, they often come face-to-face with barriers to care including lack of access, prohibitive cost, and low quality services that are not culturally responsive to the needs of the workforce. Additionally, few managers are trained to talk about suicide with employees and therefore often feel helpless about how to reach out to an employee or support a work organization that has experienced a suicide or a situation of suicide intensity. Research shows us that change in the workplace is possible, and social workers can play a pivotal role in helping to change the culture of the workplace, in addition to providing effective and culturally responsive services throughout the work environment.
With the launch of the National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention, over 1600 workplaces and professional organizations have taken the pledge to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. The Guidelines were developed by a national committee that is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and United Survivors of Suicide, Inc. Together with committee members representing diverse workplaces and occupational groups, including voices with lived experience, we utilized a mixed methods research approach to collect primary data and develop the national guidelines that provide accessible and effective tools for employers to prevent suicide and encourage a psychologically safe workplace culture.
This presentation will provide an overview of the need for workplace suicide prevention and role for social workers throughout the workplace. The presentation will also introduce attendees to a multidimensional, comprehensive approach to suicide prevention using upstream, midstream and downstream policies and programs. Participants will learn how they can take information from the national guidelines to implement within their workplace and/or professional organization.
1:00 - 1:30pm | Overview of suicide prevention in the workplace and the role for social workers in a public health approach to suicide prevention
1:30 - 2:00pm | Introduction to best practices for upstream, midstream and downstream approaches to workplace suicide prevention
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106