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Suicide Risk After A Job Loss: How to Recognize the Warning Signs and What You Can Do to Help

On average, there are 132 suicides per day in the United States. This alone is a sobering statistic. Being in the Rocky Mountain area, High Country Behavioral Health’s service areas tend to remain higher than average in suicide rates. In fact, according to the CDC, both Wyoming and Idaho rank within the top 5 states in the nation with the highest suicide rates per capita.

With our current economy in the United States, and particularly in the Rocky Mountain Region, job losses are high - not only due to COVID, but also from the decline in the oil, gas and coal industries. For those people experiencing these job losses, financial and emotional worries can increase exponentially, creating a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and actions.

Studies have shown that losing a job can increase risk of suicide. The loss of a job causes not only financial stress and difficulty, but it also affects a person’s self-worth, purpose, and direction. It is not uncommon to feel that you have failed as a person, failed your family, community, etc. Going through the grief process with a job loss is expected. If underlying mental health conditions were present before the layoff, it is more likely that an individual will experience difficulty.

So, what should you do if you find yourself or a loved one out of work and you are not sure if you or they are at risk for suicide?

First, talk about it. Asking someone if they are suicidal does not increase risk in any way. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the things to look out for are changes in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Warning sign: Talk

If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain

Warning sign: Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue

Warning sign: Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation/Shame
  • Agitation/Anger
  • Relief/Sudden Improvement

Second, work to be warm, open, approachable, validating, and nonjudgmental. It is helpful to get the individual to think about reasons that they have to live, including family, friends, pets, favorite hobbies, items, etc. I have heard it described to as looking through the end of a straw. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, their life scope shrinks. They are unable to think of all the other things in life that can make life worth living and they are only focused on getting out of their current dilemma and pain. We can help by working with them to widen their life scope.

Third, get yourself or your loved one connected to professional help. Trying to handle suicide on your own can sometimes make matters worse. Professionals are there to offer help, support, encouragement, resources, and hope. High Country Behavioral Health offers Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), in addition to other treatment modalities, which has shown effective in reducing suicidal thoughts and actions by increasing insight, coping and overall working to create a life worth living.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out. You may call your closest HCBH office, your local dispatch or 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is help and there is hope. You are not alone.

Tiffany Hogue, LPC

About the author

Tiffany Hogue, LPC

Tiffany is a Licensed Professional Counselor and former Clinical Supervisor at our Evanston Office of High Country Behavioral Health. She is highly trained in suicide prevention, working with at-risk youth, and play therapy. She provides a wide range of services including treatment of depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, chronic pain and illness, severe mental illness, substance abuse, couples and family counseling. She is deeply passionate about her career and helping others reach their highest potential. 


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