The jobs in the US that carry the highest suicide risk

Increasing suicide rates in the US are a concerning trend.
Increasing suicide rates in the US are a concerning trend.

The rate of suicide among US workers has jumped 34% since 2000, and certain occupations seem to be riskier than others, government health researchers report.

Those most at risk: men with construction and extraction jobs, and women in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some occupations carry higher risk

"Increasing suicide rates in the US are a concerning trend that represent a tragedy for families and communities and impact the American workforce," said Dr Deb Houry, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"Knowing who is at greater risk for suicide can help save lives through focused prevention efforts," Houry said in a CDC news release.

Researchers looked at the occupations of more than 22 000 Americans ages 16–64 who died by suicide in 17 states between 2012 and 2015.

In 2015, the three riskiest occupations for men were construction and extraction; arts, design, entertainment, sports and media; and installation, maintenance and repair.

Among women, the top three were the arts, design and media category; jobs in protective service; and health care support.

Workplace important area for suicide prevention

Suicide risk increased the most for women working in food prep and serving (up 54%) and for men in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (up 47%), the study found.

For teachers and librarians, some good news emerged: Men and women in education, training and library occupations had the lowest suicide rates in 2015.

The workplace is an important area for suicide prevention efforts because that's where many adults spend a great deal of their time, according to the CDC.

Employers can help prevent these tragedies in several ways, the study authors noted. They recommended employee assistance programmes, workplace wellness programmes and technology to provide online mental health screenings.

Warning signs

It's important to recognise the warning signs that someone might want to end their life. The National Institute of Mental Health says the following behaviours may indicate that you or a loved one needs help immediately:

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame, or about feeling trapped
  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • More frequent use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Giving away important possessions

Researchers found that in 2015, the suicide rate for males in construction and extraction was about 53 per 100 000. Among women in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media, the rate was nearly 16 per 100 000.

The new findings show that for men in farming, ranching and related occupations, suicide rates were almost 45 per 100 000 in 2012 and declined to about 32 per 100 000 in 2015.

For male agricultural workers, suicide rates fell from about 20 per 100 000 in 2012 to about 17 per 100 000 in 2015.

The study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Finding help in South Africa

In South Africa there are 23 suicides a day recorded and 230 serious attempts. You can call SADAG  to talk on behalf of a loved one, colleague, or friend.

Trained counsellors are there to help and refer you to local counsellors, facilities and support groups: 

0800 21 22 23 (8am to 8pm)

0800 12 13 14 (8pm to 8am)

Or SMS 31393

Image credit: iStock

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