WPV Stick  April 2015
Critical Response AssociatesVolume 15 Issue 1


Welcome to our spring newsletter. I hope that you have all weathered the winter well, but I also know that for some of you, the wintry mix is not quite over yet. We have had a busy couple of months here, and are currently looking forward to our 2015 CRA Case Conference Workshop in Atlanta later this week. This is an annual event in which all of our psychological associates come together for a couple days of networking, in which we discuss casework and generally keep each other educated and current on developments in this field. Personally, I have been busy over the last few months, finally getting started on a new book that I have been planning for awhile, that I hope to be completed by the summer. We are also in the process of developing a new video-based employee training program for companies, which will be in production later this month.


I was completing the article for this newsletter, when the recent tragic event involving the crash of the Germanwings flight caught my attention, as it has with all of us. I decided to put aside the article that I was working on, to again focus on the issue of suicide - which will also be an important topic in my upcoming book that I will be addressing in more detail. While we do not yet know all the details concerning the Germanwings tragedy, and should not over-speculate, this event has, among other things, reminded us once again of the possible impact of suicide, as it can relate to workplace violence or any kind of collateral harm to others.


Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.

Critical Response Associates


Suicide and Workplace Violence



Those of you who have attended any of our trainings in workplace violence prevention will probably recall the section when we discuss the importance of being sensitive to and aware of those around us who may be suicidal or otherwise prone to be self-destructive. In fact, we consider anyone who is potentially suicidal as being in a high-risk category that should prompt an assessment.


Why are we interested in suicidal individuals in this discussion of workplace violence? If you answer that we all should be always concerned if any individual within our organization is involved in a process where they are thinking about taking their life, then you would be correct. But only partially correct.


We are also concerned about the safety of others. Just mention the familiar words of "Columbine", "Sandy Hook", "Virginia Tech", the "Navy Yard shooting", and maybe after the investigation is completed, the "Germanwings crash".  Those who have lost family members may not appreciate reducing these tragedies to the simple issue of suicide, and of course, I do not want to do that, as each of these were after all, homicidal events that have involved multiple casualties. However, the fact of the matter is that these were also suicidal events. The ultimate act in each of these incidents, and in many, many others, was a suicidal one.


It would be my contention that if one could accurately map the course of the perpetrator's thinking process, the acceptance and willingness to engage in a suicidal act superseded and made possible the decision to engage in a homicidal act. It would not be reasonable to assume that in all of these incidents, the perpetrators just suddenly decided to kill themselves after coming to the startling realization of the impact of their homicidal deeds.


I cannot begin in this short article to attempt to explain the thinking that goes into one who engages in a suicidal act that puts others at risk. Suicide is complicated, with many different faces. Some may kill others out of anger, as a kind of last chance payback. Recent research has shown that the incident of "suicide by cop" is much more prevalent than previously realized, where the person engages law enforcement, often in actions that were harmful to the police and/or others, with the aim of eventually getting themselves killed. And how can any of us easily comprehend the thinking of a suicidal parent who first kills his or her children in a belief that the children will be better off dead?


I am not an expert on suicide and suicidal behavior, but much of our work involves those who have self-destructive tendencies. And the headlines generally support that many, if not most, episodes of lethal workplace violence involve a suicidal component, in which the individual is on a self-destructive path and that his or her destruction is a desired or at least, an acceptable, outcome.


This is why we consider those who are potentially suicidal as being automatically in a high-risk category when considering public safety. I certainly do not mean to imply by this that all suicidal individuals represent a risk of hurting others, but the prevalence and the consequences are such that it demands our attention.


So is suicide enough of an issue to concern us? According to The Centers for Disease Control, suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. over the years, but has recently risen to its highest level in 25 years. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, and for men in their 50s, suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent.


But I want to leave you with one more number: 4.6%. This is the percentage of Americans (almost 1 in 20) who attempt suicide in their lifetime - a figure that most believe is an underestimate.



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Dr.McElhaney's textbook is
also available in EBook.

Critical Response Associates has developed a training/awareness program for all employees and supervisors.