Stress at Work

Suicide and Occupation

Key points

  • Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die and is a serious health problem.
  • Job factors may impact someone's risk for suicide.
Telephone number 988 for the suicide and crisis lifeline

Need help? Know someone who does?

Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Both are free and confidential. You'll be connected to a counselor in your area.

What is suicide?

Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die and is a serious public health problem.

What do we know about the suicide problem?

In 2020, there were 45,979 deaths by suicide in the United States, which is about 1 suicide every 11 minutes1 Suicide was the:

  • 2nd leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age
  • 4th leading cause of death among people 35 to 44 years of age
  • 7th leading cause of death among people 45 to 54 years of age
  • 9th leading cause of death among people 55 to 64 years of age

Occupation and stress

Can occupation affect a person's risk of suicide?

Many factors impact someone's risk of suicide. Some occupations or jobs have higher rates of suicide than others. 234

What factors are linked to increase risk of suicide for some occupations?

  • Job Factors - such as low job security, low pay, and job stress456
  • Access to lethal means - the ability to obtain things like medications and firearms4567

Other factors that can influence the link between occupation and suicide include: gender, socioeconomic status, economic climate, and societal norms4578

What are ways to reduce and prevent suicide in the workplace?

CDC's Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices provides several recommendations to reduce and prevent suicide. Many of these recommendations are relevant to the workplace, including:

  • Increasing access to health and behavioral health care services
  • Reducing access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide
  • Changing organizational polices and culture to promote a protective environment for workers, such as:
    • Promoting prosocial behavior among employees (e.g., asking for help)
    • Assessing and referring employees to helping services (e.g., mental health, substance abuse treatment, financial counseling)
    • Developing crisis response plans for post-suicide events

Resources and tools

Workplace tools

American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APA) Suicide Prevention provides a list of tools and resources to help employers and coworkers respond to the reality of suicide in the workplace.

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Workplace provides guidance on how to develop a comprehensive workplace suicide prevention program as well as 10 action steps for addressing the aftermath of suicide.

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation - Everyone Goes Home Life Safety Initiative provides prevention resources available for firefighters. The goal of the Everyone Goes Home® program is to reduce the number of preventable firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Workplaces is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, and provides many resources for the prevention of suicide in workplaces.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health Suicide Response provides information on how to respond to the suicide or attempted suicide of an employee.

World Health Organization (WHO) Preventing Suicide: A Resource at Work provides useful information on the warning signs and how to help a coworker who is showing signs of thinking about suicide

Related resources

NIOSH science blogs


NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH. NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Suicide are based on keywords related to suicide.

  1. CDC [2020]. Leading cause of death by age group. National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, WISQARS™
  2. CDC [2018]. Suicide rates by major occupational group–17 states, 2012 and 2015. MMWR 67(45):1253–1260.
  3. Tomasi SE, Fechter-Leggett ED, Edwards NT, Reddish AD, Crosby AE, Nett RJ [2019]. Suicide among veterinarians in the United States from 1979 through 2015. J of Am Vet Med Ass. 254(1):104-112.
  4. Milner A, Spittal MJ, Pirkis J, LaMontagne AD [2013]. Suicide by occupation: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry 203(6):409-416.
  5. Milner A, Witt K, LaMontagne AD, Niedhammer I [2018]. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Occup Environ Med 75(4):245-253.
  6. Choi BK [2018]. Job strain, long work hours, and suicidal ideation in US workers: A longitudinal study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 91(7):865-875.
  7. Milner A, Witt K, Maheen H, LaMontagne AD [2017]. Access to means of suicide, occupation and the risk of suicide: A national study over 12 years of coronial data. BMC Psychiatry 17:125
  8. Milner A, Page K, Spencer-Thomas S, LaMontagne AD [2015]. Workplace suicide prevention: a systematic review of published and unpublished activities. Health Promot Int 30(1):29-37.