Why September is a Good Month to Remind Employees About Assistance Programs

Why September is a Good Month to Remind Employees About Assistance Programs

By Tricia O'Connor

Are you stressed?

We’re not surprised if you answered yes. Millions of Americans continue to struggle with stress and anxiety daily, and it is having severe impacts on people’s mental health and substance abuse:

  • Suicides among Black Americans and other people of color are rising in some communities
  • Certain industries, like construction, are seeing an alarming surge in deaths by suicide
  • Deaths from drug overdoses soared in 2020
  • 1 in 3 Americans admit they’re more likely to drink alcohol during working hours while working from home

So, it’s timely that September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This is an important opportunity for Human Resources professionals to reach out to employees and remind them about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and the services they may be able to tap into to help them deal with life’s challenges.

Deaths by Suicide

At the start of the pandemic, mental health experts warned suicide rates may increase because of the increased stress people were experiencing. Early indications show this prediction didn’t pan out overall but also indicates there are discrepancies among people of color and accidental drug overdose deaths.

Drug Testing with EBI

The number of suicides dropped by 5 percent, to 44,834 deaths in 2020 from 47,511 in 2019. But a recent study indicates one in 12 adults has had thoughts of suicide. In some communities, Black Americans and people of color seem to be disproportionately affected, although data is still being analyzed. Hispanic Americans are reporting feeling depressed and stressed about keeping a roof over their heads and having enough food to eat.

Deaths from drug overdoses also soared last year. More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020. That’s a 30% increase from the previous year. The leading cause of overdose deaths was from opioids, specifically, illegal fentanyl.

Experts also blame the pandemic’s toll. Some overdose deaths are classified as suicides, but researchers can’t agree on how those deaths should be tallied.

Certain Industries Affected by Suicide

Anxiety and depression rates are still rising as many Americans worry about their own health and that of their families. In addition to health struggles, millions of people are overwhelmed by childcare, unemployment, financial burdens, and work-related stress.

It’s hitting certain industries, like construction, especially hard. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries, a rate about four times higher than the general population. The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules, and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids are some of the causes for the increase in deaths by suicide.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

OSHA is calling on the construction industry to participate this week in a Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down to raise awareness of the challenges unique to construction workers. The Stand-Down falls during National Suicide Prevention Week.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around a difficult topic.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is also an opportunity for Human Resources professionals to remind employees about assistance programs. While nearly half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% experienced symptoms. With stress, anxiety, depression, and other pressures continuing to mount on workers, providing an Employee Assistance Program is a critical step toward keeping your employees healthy and safe.

What is An Employee Assistance Program?

An Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is a work-based intervention program that assists employees in dealing with personal challenges that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. EAPs offer assistance and resources for a variety of needs, including:

  • Substance use
  • Stress management
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Financial and legal concerns
  • Family and parenting issues
  • Relationship improvement
  • Life changes
  • Workplace violence

Many EAPs extend services to an employee’s immediate family members so that everyone who needs help can get it. The information you or your family member discusses with an EPA counselor is confidential and compliant with state and federal laws.

Employees may choose to contact the EAP provider at their company on their own, or sometimes an employee may be asked to use an EAP as part of an agreement with an employer. The guidance provided by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) says an employee’s job security will not be jeopardized because of seeking or using EAP services, except where mandated by law. In extreme cases, such as workplace violence threats or suicidal thoughts, employers may consider a mandatory referral to an EAP, but this may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, many employers provide a formal written referral to an employee asking them to seek EAP services based on work-related issues.

The goal, whether during September’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month or any time of year, is to get employees the help they need to manage life’s challenges.

Support Your Employees with EBI Solutions

Medical and addiction experts will need to monitor the rates of substance abuse and drug overdose deaths as this pandemic continues, just as employers will need to support their employees’ efforts to stay safe and healthy, both physically and mentally.

In addition to reminding employees about EAPs during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, employers may want to help employees manage substance abuse at home by implementing drug testing for remote workers.

As one of only nine drug screening providers to earn a coveted Consortium/Third-Party Administrator accreditation, EBI can help you determine which type of drug testing method is best for your company. Our drug screening platform enables you to manage every aspect of your drug screening program from a single interface. All specimen types are supported (urine, hair, blood, oral fluid), and we have the largest self-managed network with over 15,000 locations.

You don’t have to wait until something tragic happens to one of your employees. And you don’t have to do it alone. EBI is here to help. Contact one of our experts today.

Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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