The Word “Suicide” Is More Than Just A Word

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A landscaper from Michigan called me the other day to talk about an employee who was in the process of exhausting her leave balances (e.g., vacation, sick leave), even though a significant portion of the fiscal year remained.  I explained to her that leave balances are a benefit given by the company to its employees to be invoked at the employee’s request, pending management approval.  

With that point understood, the landscaper told me the employee was taking off the next day (i.e., Friday).  Not a problem; a three-day weekend.  

Then the problem arose.

At that point, the landscaper casually told me that the employee stated “I’m going to go home and commit suicide this weekend” as she walked out of the office.

Certain words (e.g., hostile work environment, fire, rape) are not simply words.  They are calls for immediate action. 

“Suicide” is one of those words.

On the following Monday, the female employee did not come to work.  At 11:00 a.m. on Monday, the employee’s sister called the landscaper with the message that the female employee committed suicide on Saturday by ingesting an overdose of blood pressure medication.

No one will ever see that female employee again.  Think about that for a while.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her…

We readily acknowledge the country is completely upside down right now.  These undeniably complicated times add incalculable stress, strain, and despair to many Americans each day.  Lamentably, oftentimes we are so busy attempting to get through another challenging day, that we become preoccupied to the point of being unaware of others’ daily, personal, or emotional plights.

Whether it is depression, addiction, loneliness, alienation, or mental illness, for a person to consider taking one’s own life is the epitome that s/he believes s/he has no meaningful connection, value, or love in his/her life.  And we did not even know about it.  Think about that for a while.

To be clear: The myriad administrative resources (e.g., Employee Assistance Programs, Suicide Prevention phone lines, local support groups, faith-based organizations, internet-available materials), are meant to be a supplement, not a substitute for that ever-so-priceless human connection that many people contemplating suicide are desperately seeking to have in their lives.  

We are not employees.  We are people.  Think about that for a while.

Take a moment and talk to a co-worker sincerely, not disingenuously; ask about them, their interests, weekend hobbies.  When you get a chance, tell someone that s/he did a good job, and mean it!  Throughout the day, smile when you look at a fellow employee, friend, or family member.  Be kind; engage with them; trust me, you are not that busy.  Say “good morning!” to those you meet and evaluate the message in their eyes as they respond to your greeting.  Extend a compliment to someone that symbolizes their unique value, personal contribution, or special impact they may have on you.

Because, just maybe, in their solitude, bereft of love and meaning, your words are more than just words.

Think about that for a while.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.