Just this week, an employee was found dead in a conference room next to a gun at the Apple’s California Headquarters in Cupertino. This came a day after a shocking decline in Apple’s stock price following their first ever decline in revenue in 13 years. It is unlikely that this incident will get much coverage. The subject of suicide is rarely covered by the media, whether it occurs in a residence or business.
However, suicide is by far the greatest risk of intentional injury. In fact, an employee is many times more likely to shoot themselves at work than to be assaulted by a coworker, client or even ex-partner. Considering those last three types combined, there were 137 murders in 2014 across the USA compared to the 293 employees who killed themselves while on the clock. Furthermore, when you add the 130 deaths from robbery, once the overwhelming source of occupational homicide, it still doesn’t add up to the number of people who commit suicide while at work. The prevalence of suicide at work is indicative of the surge of this crisis across the country in general. Suicide is the leading cause of death for veterans and in recent years, has even surpassed death from car accidents.
The impact of such incidents at work should not be ignored. The emotional trauma to employees, interruption of business productivity, and public relations damage can be just as devastating as a homicide. There is a connection to workplace violence as it sometimes appears to have the intent of causing harm to the company or organization. Consider the teacher who set herself on fire at recess or the Disney employee in Hong Kong who climbed on top of Space Mountain and threatened to slit his throat in front of all of the visitors. Such actions clearly indicate malicious intent towards others.
There has been so much attention, resources and even arguments to change legislation to address the active shooter threat but the evidence shows that the common danger of workplace suicide is simply ignored by the mass media and therefore prevention efforts may be misguided. However, the warning signs, the threat assessment procedures and security measures that have been honed to prevent workplace violence can also be used to prevent suicide at work as well. There are significant differences to the motives, symptoms and intervention strategies and not all cases are similar but the primary prevention step is always the same. Be aware of the challenges, stability and welfare of those around you. It is this vigilance that can prevent not only the active shooter but those that intend to hurt themselves.