Transforming Healthcare: New Hope for Suicide Prevention in the Workplace

Effective leadership, supportive workplace communication, access to care, and work/life integration are critical elements seen as important “upstream” conditions that can be used to reduce the risk of mental health crises and help prevent work-related suicides, particularly in health care settings, according to an expert at the University of Maryland School Social Work.

Long, unpredictable working hours, conditions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic have all led to higher risk of suicide among healthcare workers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a Feb. 5 presentation at the University of Texas at Austin, Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP, professor and associate dean for Research at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW), unveiled a framework for suicide prevention within healthcare settings, highlighting  the power of leadership and organizational culture in fostering mental well-being among medical professionals.

Frey highlighted the alarming challenges faced by healthcare professionals, including residents, who are often at a heightened risk due to the demanding and stressful nature of their work. She stressed the necessity of upstream interventions and strategies aimed at preventing a crisis before it  occurs. Dr. Frey also underscored the importance of creating a work culture that not only supports mental well-being but also actively encourages help-seeking behaviors. This is an approach Frey helped create with colleague, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas and members of the National Committee for Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention.

“Having spent most of my professional career focused on downstream approaches to workplace behavioral health and suicide prevention, I have learned the value of investing in upstream approaches including bold organizational leadership, transparent and supportive workplace communication, and policies that support positive mental health, access to care, and work/life integration. These upstream approaches, supported by mid- and down-stream interventions can do so much more to prevent suicide crises in the first place while supporting the overall health and well-being of workers,” said Dr. Frey.

Frey's research offers a pathway toward transforming workplace environments, particularly in high-stress fields like healthcare. Her call to action for leaders to adopt and implement comprehensive suicide prevention strategies is designed to catalyze significant advancements in mental health support at work. The discussion and questions raised by the audience further highlighted the presentation's impact, sparking a conversation on the future of workplace mental health interventions.

One attendee reflected, “It was a great talk. The powerful quotes Dr. Frey shared made me think of my personal experience of burnout at a previous work environment… the feeling of frustration and vulnerability made me cry. Thank you for having the opportunity to discuss this important issue and show the hard work being done.”


To learn more about Dr. Frey’s work in suicide prevention and workplace behavioral health, check out and

Ready to be a Changemaker?