World Suicide Prevention Day
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that over 800,000 people take their own life every year. That’s a partner, a child, a parent, friend or colleague every 40 seconds. Suicide is the leading killer of males aged 20-49 and the numbers of females taking their own lives are rising every year.
September 10 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Day, an annual awareness raising event by the WHO and partners. The theme this year is Working Together to Prevent Suicide.
We spend one third of our lives in the working environment. The type of work and the support given at work can therefore have a huge impact on mental health. For example, certain industries have a higher rate of suicide than others. A 2017 report by the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group showed that among the most at risk groups include doctors, nurses, farmers and construction workers. Low skilled males in the construction industry are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than the national average.
So why is this? Recent research from UK workplace magazine, Hazards suggest the top factors for work-related suicides include job insecurity, lack of control over work and stress resulting from overworking. In this research, they also analysed suicide notes from several companies. From these quotes, there can be no mistaking that a negative work environment was instrumental in causing these people to feel as though there was no way out;
“My professional activity is the primary cause. It has crushed me and engulfed me to the point where I can no longer see any escape” – Senior Manager
The below suicide note from a 38-year old technician from the car manufacturer, Renault, was addressed to his family:
“This has nothing to do with you. I can’t go on. This job is too much for me.”
What can be done from an organisation to deal with this issue? Here are some points to start the conversation within a company:
a. Raise awareness of both the issue and any existing support systems. For example, it has become common practice in the modern UK workplace to have an employee assistance program (EAP), however the national average shows that only 3-5% of the total workforce access this service. Highlighting the need to promote this service in organisations worldwide.
b. Provide training in dealing with mental health issues. Some companies have introduced mental health first aid training and employees who undergo this course are given a badge to notify others that they are available to talk about any possible issues.
c. Evaluate the company’s current HR systems and highlight any possible problematic areas. As mentioned above, common areas include; job security (e.g. length of contracts), job autonomy and stress resulting from overloading to begin with.
There are many resources on suicide in the workplace. These can range from preventative measures to helping employees deal with a colleague’s death. For initial information and support, Soma Analytics recommends the following resources.
The Samaritans are a great general resource in mental health.
Business in the Community have worked together with The Samaritans to develop a program for business to follow.
If you can, it would be helpful to find an industry specific mental health foundation. For example in the construction industry, the charity ‘Mates in Construction’ was established in 2008 to reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers.