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September 1, 2023

September Focus: Discussing Suicide & Substance Use at Work

Tips and resources to help you get started on discussing suicide and substance use at work

In the wake of the pandemic, rates of both substance use disorders and suicides have risen sharply across the U.S. In fact, last year saw the highest number of overdose deaths and suicide deaths ever recorded. These trends don’t only exist outside of the workplace -- they are taking a toll on your workforce.

Due to stigma, employers often struggle to address these issues when they arise. The first step to breaking through stigma is to talk about the issue. September marks both National Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month, providing employers a timely opportunity to begin the conversation in their workplace.

Today, we’re sharing tips and resources to help you get started.

In Today’s Newsletter:

  • Discussing Suicide at Work: The power of stories from the top
  • Substance Use Disorders: How you can create a recovery-ready workplace


  • COVID-19 + Flu + RSV: New vaccines and new responsibilities for employers
  • Ending HIV in the U.S. by 2030: See how businesses are taking action to end HIV

Discussing Suicide at Work

The power of stories from the top

Last week, business leaders joined the Health Action Alliance and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to talk about the power of leaders sharing their own stories on mental health in advance of National Suicide Prevention Month.

  • What this means for your company: According to KFF, suicide rates are at record highs, and are growing fastest among people of color, younger individuals and people who live in rural areas. And of course, it’s not only the immediate impact each life lost has that affects your company. A suicide can have a shattering effect on employee morale and well-being for those who remain.
  • Going further: At our recent employer workshop, AFSP’s Maggie Mortali shared that resilience, problem-solving skills, social support and access to mental health care work as safeguards against the risk of suicide. According to research from Headspace, 76% of employees appreciate when their leaders share their own mental health stories.
  • Start here: When leaders share their personal stories, it can meaningfully combat stigma, normalize mental challenges and empower employees to seek help. Learn more about how to share your story with our Tips for Leadership Storytelling and AFSP’s Resources to Talk Away the Dark.

Substance Use Disorders

How you can create a recovery-ready workplace

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 46.3 million Americans have a substance use disorder, costing employers over $80 billion annually.

Join us on Thursday, September 14 at 2pm ET / 11am PT for an interactive employer briefing to learn how your company can create a supportive environment that empowers employees on their journey to addiction recovery.

COVID-19 + Flu + RSV

New vaccines and new responsibilities for employers

With an expected surge of respiratory illnesses this fall and winter, and a new wave of vaccines entering the market, now is an important time for business leaders to consider how to keep their workforce safe from COVID-19, flu and RSV.

  • What this means for your company: With updated COVID-19 vaccines likely to be released within weeks, start communicating with your employees now about the importance of getting boosted. Broad immunizations will likely be available in mid-September, providing a key opportunity to talk with your employees about staying up-to-date with their vaccinations.
  • Going further: This blog post by Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz has a good summary of the new vaccinations and employers’ financial responsibilities. It stresses the importance of not just focusing on COVID-19 shots, but thinking about other respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV, both of which can cause significant absences among your workforce in the fall and winter months.

Ending HIV in the U.S. by 2030

See how businesses are taking action to end HIV

The fight to help end HIV in the U.S. gained a number of new champions at the 2023 National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s International Business and Leadership Conference in Denver earlier this month. As part of the conference, the Health Action Alliance organized a panel highlighting the remarkable progress being made by the private sector in fostering inclusive workplaces and working towards an end to the epidemic.

  • What this means for your company: Providing HIV education and resources demonstrates a commitment to the health and well-being of your employees. Investing in HIV education can also impact your bottom line. Estimates suggest that the average lifetime medical costs for HIV are $500,000 per new infection. Employers can take steps to lower costs over time by promoting HIV prevention and treatment adherence. Read Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Guide for Employers, designed to help you get started.
  • Going further: During the panel, business leaders shared what they’re doing to help end HIV in the U.S. Match Group, the force behind popular dating apps like Tinder, Chispa, BLK and more, is using its platform to fight HIV stigma and connect users with critical HIV education and testing resources. Paramount Pictures has committed to educating its workforce about HIV through ongoing lunch-and-learns, partnerships with local community organizations, and participating in the annual AIDS Walk each year. Chevron has instituted a global comprehensive HIV/AIDS initiative and provides employees and their dependents with confidential access to HIV testing and treatment. You can take the first step today by helping your employees find free HIV testing using the CDC’s HIV testing locator or ordering free HIV self-tests through the Together TakeMeHome program
  • Start here: Are you passionate about promoting health equity within your workplace? We’d love to talk with you about U.S. Business Action to End HIV, and discuss how your company can play a role in ending HIV in the United States.

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