Workplace evolving as a place to discuss suicide

The workforce is the primary economic driver and taxpayer.

For those between the ages of 30 and 65, it also represents the group of individuals, men especially, that accounted for 60 percent of Mesa County’s suicides in 2011.

Companies like Grand Junction’s TRIAD Employee Assistance Program help other businesses assist employees through life’s rough spots, not only with mental health issues, but also with financial or legal troubles. One aspect of the benefit allows employees to confidentially receive help from TRIAD, without employers being notified.

“Part of our mission is to help an employer and employees talk about suicide,” TRIAD EAP President John Gribben said. He said businesses, in general, have become more open to providing suicide prevention training.

The challenge, Gribben said, is trying to change the perception, particularly among men, that talking about feeling depressed or being suicidal is not a sign of weakness — rather, it’s a statement of courage.

The city of Grand Junction appears to take suicide prevention to heart, he said.

Shelley Williams, the city’s benefits coordinator, said it’s important for the city to be proactive because many city employees deal with public safety and help others through crises on a daily basis.

“That 911 call-taker may take a call of a suicidal person but they may not know what happened after the call,” Williams said. “We need to help (employees) so they can have resolution.”

Workers are under added pressure as a whole as companies are asking employees to do more with less.

“Costs have gone up,” she said. “Even though one person (in a family) may have a wonderful job, that family may have had two people working and now they’re down to one.”

“We are not back to where we were before this whole thing started,” Williams said of the Great Recession.

Gribben said he knows employee assistance programs work. Though he rarely broadcasts it, his first wife died by suicide in 1996. Gribben, who worked for Community Hospital at the time, used the program to help deal with the emotional turbulence that event created in his life.

“I certainly found how much of a value it was for me,” he said.


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