The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 1, 2010
From the notebook: More about state employee suicide

Much of what we learn as we report news stories about state work force issues never sees print. From the notebook blog posts give you notes, quotes and details that inform the writing.

Last week's story on the increase in workplace crisis counseling triggered by state employees' suicides prompted hundreds of online comments, about 150 e-mails and many telephone calls. Some blasted the piece for failing to get more specific about state employees who died by suicide. Those critics felt that the story was soft and missed a chance to have greater impact.

Many more readers said in e-mails and phone calls that they felt that the piece aimed to cast state employees in a sympathetic light. Here's an example of an online comment leveling that charge:

If you compared the private sector to government work force I bet you would find the numbers 10 times more, but of course the Sacbee didn't want to mention that fact and instead is pushing an agenda again.

Early drafts of the story contained state and national data, but the information lags by up to three years. Using those figures for context isn't very useful. Still, in the interest of giving readers of this blog extra info that informs the stories that we write, here are two tables that reveal state and national suicide data for residents over age 18:

These figures come from the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which has a database that you can access by clicking here.

100831 CA deaths by suicide.JPG

100831 US deaths by suicide box.JPG

As our story last week noted, department calls for workplace crisis counseling triggered by a state employee's death by suicide ran 7.6 per 100,000 workers in 2007, then 5.8 per 100,000 in 2008 before more than doubling to 13.7 per 100,000 in 2009. As the story points out, you can't assume that the number of counseling calls accurately reflects the number of state employees who died by their own hand. Some incidents might have prompted more than one call while others might not have prompted any calls.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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