Certain jobs have elevated suicide risk

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Men and women face different suicide risk levels depending on their job

Women working in culture, media and sport and men in low-skilled roles are most at risk from dying from suicide, according to analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) commissioned by Public Health England (PHE).

Men working in the lowest-skilled occupations had a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average, while the risk among men in skilled trades was 35% higher than average.

For women, occupations with a high risk of suicide include nurses (23% above the national average), primary school teachers (42% above average), and those working in culture, media and sport (69% above average).

The results showed that the highest rates of suicide overall tended to be among workers with the lowest level of skill (for example cleaners or low-skilled labourers), whereas the lowest rates of suicide were seen among those working in highly skilled occupations (for example managers, chief executives and senior officials).

Low-skilled workers tend to receive lower pay and have less job security and control over their work patterns, which may be contributing factors to their higher suicide rates. The report states, however, that attempting to explain suicide because of someone's occupation is complex as it is likely that a number of factors act together to increase risk.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said employers could do more to help employees who may be struggling with mental health issues.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50, and more women are taking their own lives each year,” he said. “Death by suicide is never inevitable, but for a person who is overwhelmed by feelings and events that appear insurmountable it can seem like the only answer.

“I urge all employers, large or small, public or private sector, to treat mental health as seriously as physical health. Early action can stop employees reaching a desperate stage. Simple actions can make a huge difference – talking with a manager or colleague can help people get the support they need, and ultimately save lives.”

PHE, BITC and the Samaritans have put together toolkits with advice on steps employers can take to prevent suicides, and on supporting teams in the event of a colleague's suicide.

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said the aim should be to create an open culture.

“We spend a third of our lives at work and a fifth of us experience suicidal thoughts, so these resources are much needed,” she said. “We shouldn’t stop there though. It is up to us to create a culture in our workplaces where people feel safe enough to talk about their feelings and get support if they need it.

“The effects of suicide can be devastating and they can reach far beyond immediate family and friends."

The prevention toolkit can be found here. The toolkit to use when a member of staff has committed suicide can be found here.

If you are having suicidal thoughts the Samaritans can be reached 24-hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123.

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