Occupational Hazards

A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists farming, fishing and forestry as professions with the high rates of suicide. The report, released July 1, analyzed 12,312 suicides in 17 states in 2012 by occupation, sex, and age.


The report found that rates of suicide were highest in farming, fishing, and forestry, with 84.5 suicides per 100,000 persons, compared to only 13.3 per 100,000 in the general population. The next highest group was construction and extraction (53.3); and installation, maintenance, and repair (47.9).

Among females, the report said, the highest suicide rates occurred among persons in protective service occupations such as law enforcement and firefighting (14.1); legal (13.9); and healthcare practitioners and technical (13.3).

The report speculated that the reasons for the higher suicide rates could include “job-related isolation and demands, stressful work environments, and work-home imbalance, as well as socioeconomic inequities, including lower income, lower education level, and lack of access to health services.” The report added that females in protective service occupations might also experience additional stress because they work in traditionally male-dominated occupations.

The CDC report, “Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012,” calls for workplace suicide prevention efforts:

Suicide prevention activities directed toward persons aged more than16 years include enhancing connectedness to family and friends, encouraging help-seeking for persons exhibiting signs of distress or suicidality, and supporting efforts to reduce stigma associated with help-seeking and mental illness. Some potential suicide prevention strategies include workplace approaches, such as employee assistance programs, which might serve as gateways to behavioral health treatment. Workplace wellness programs can provide education and training for staff members and supervisors to aid in recognition of suicide warning signs (e.g., withdrawal, increased substance abuse, agitation, and putting affairs in order). Employers also can use technology to provide online mental health screenings, web-based tools for mental health information, and mental health screening kiosks for their employees, as well as ensure that employees are aware of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-800-273-8255).

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) Workplace Task Force has developed a Comprehensive Blueprint for Workplace Suicide Prevention that addresses suicide prevention strategies, such as screening, mental health services and resources, suicide prevention training, life skills and social network promotion, and education and advocacy.

The NAASP online site has resources targeted specifically to the construction and law enforcement industries. Evidence-based suicide prevention strategies implemented in the workplace have the potential to reduce the number of suicides among all occupational groups.