Business leaders urged to attend suicide awareness presentation

Brian Davidson

Brian Davidson

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Dr. Brian Davidson believes it’s important to not only have a conversation about suicide awareness in the workplace, but also for business owners and managers to lead that conversation.

As president of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, Davidson has led a series of such presentations. He plans to lead another presentation for local business and organizational leaders in the hope they’ll follow the example.

Such an approach demonstrates leaders care about their employees and that it’s appropriate to talk about a subject that’s sometimes wrongfully avoided because of the stigma involved.

“That’s the message I want the leaders in the room to hear. Don’t pass this on to someone else. This is important for you to do,” Davidson said.

What’s billed as a lunch and learn session is set for 11:30 a.m. March 10 at the Saccomanno Education Center at St. Mary’s. There’s room for more than 100 business and organizational leaders to attend the free event.

To register, call 298-1950, visit the website at www.stmarygj.org/suicide or send an e-mail to pat.montgomery@sclhs.net.

Davidson said he’ll go through a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Mike Olson, a behavioral scientist at St. Mary’s. The presentation covers in a brief and straightforward manner some of the indications a person could be contemplating suicide and ways to intervene, Davidson said.

The same presentation will be available for leaders to use in their own workplaces, Davidson said. Cards offering information about local mental health resources also will be distributed.

The event follows the suicides of family members of people working at St. Mary’s and subsequent presentations to first the leadership team at the hospital and then the staff, Davidson said. The idea is that if businesses and organizations focus first on their own staffs, they can help in addressing the broader issue.

The goal now, Davidson said, is to help business and organizational leaders in the community to take that step. “We felt that was a small, but important piece that was missing.”

The workplace constitutes a good place to talk about suicide, Davidson said, because most adults spent most of their time at work.

Moreover, people sometimes indicate directly or indirectly at work they’re experiencing difficulties, depression or even suicidal thoughts, he said. Symptoms can include unusual irritability or other personality changes, such different patterns as arriving to work early or late, a lack of grooming or self-care, withdrawal from friendships or certain activities and a sense of being overwhelmed or hopeless. Some people will tell others if they’re struggling or thinking of suicide.

The first step in intervention, Davidson said, can be as simple as asking someone how they’re doing. It’s important to have that conversation rather than avoid it out of fear, he said. A variety of resources then can be tapped to offer additional assistance.

It’s essential, though, that employees know they can talk about suicide in the workplace. One of the best ways to convey that is for business owners and managers to lead the conversation, Davidson said.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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