BLS Data Provides Further Evidence of Suicide Epidemic in Federal Agencies

New data released last month from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that federal employee suicides have reached their highest level in at least 15 years. Law enforcement and national security agencies continue to lead with the largest percentage of suicides within the federal workforce.

In 2018, BLS found that suicides accounted for 28 percent of the 124 federal employee job related deaths. In the private sector that year, suicides accounted for 5 percent of the 4,779 work related deaths. BLS records an event as a suicide if the suicide occurred on the premises of an employee’s job or if the suicide occurred off work premises but can be linked back to work related stressors, according to FedSmith reports.

BLS found that since 2011, the number of self-inflicted intentional fatalities among federal employees has more than doubled, despite the size of the federal workforce remaining consistent.

While abnormal suicide rates have impacted every agency, law enforcement personnel have the highest rates.

In 2016, 15 of the 16 reported suicides by federal employees occurred within law enforcement agencies. In 2018, 28 of the 35 suicides were federal employees within law enforcement agencies.

Earlier in 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requested additional funding for their Employee Assistance Program. CBP cited multiple, devastating natural disasters and the 2019 partial government shutdown as reasons for an increased need for Work Life services such as the Suicide Prevention Tool.

The Council of Prison Locals C-33 National President Shane Fausey, who represents more than 30,000 bargaining unit employees within the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), told Government Executive that he believes staffing levels could be contributing to the high number of suicides.

An ABC report on suicide within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) noted that union officials predict the agency is experiencing 3 to 5 suicides a year of active duty and recently retired air marshals.

ABC explains, “Given its size, that would be equivalent of upward of 30-50 suicides a year in the 36,000-member New York Police Department, the nation’s largest. The NYPD has seen nine suicides of its members this year.”

Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the creation of 988 as a national suicide crisis hotline number for easy access to immediate assistance.

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