Workplace Suicides on the Rise

Lately workplace suicides have become more common around the globe. Reports suggest around one million people have killed themselves worldwide till date including over 30,000 American employees. According to American Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 1,719 male and female workers committed suicide on the job between 2003 and 2007.

The rate of workplace suicides has climbed drastically since 2007. The practice is currently the main source of death by harm in the United States, outperforming car accidents. This may indicate increasing pressure and stress levels among employees. The pressure on targets and deadlines, race for profits and excessive individualization as well as everyone being forced to compete with their colleagues are some of the causes of suicidal tendencies. They lead to psychological problems in the workplace which have a negative impact on the way employees work.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life, including mental, social, physical, spiritual and economic. When there’s no harmony between work and social life, employees tend to suffer mental illnesses. Mental illnesses refer to health issues that influence the way individuals think about themselves, identify with others and associate with the people around them.

Mental illnesses affect our behaviors, thoughts, feelings and abilities. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety disorders and depression. These conditions are most likely to occur amid times of vulnerability or stress, which can be experienced at the workplace. Still, stress outside the workplace can also affect mental wellness, which in turn affects an individual at work.

How mental illnesses affect employees

Individuals who experience mental illnesses may have doubts in their capacities or seem less confident. They usually experience difficulties in concentration, learning and decision making. For instance, individuals who cannot concentrate may assume that they are underperforming at work and even worry about being laid off.

Mental illnesses can likewise affect work relationships. Individuals who suffer from mental illness may pull away from colleagues, behave in an unexpected manner, and take so much time off or even look less productive than normal. This can cause tension in their relationships with co-workers and supervisors.

Such cases of isolation, job dissatisfaction, workload, workplace conflict and domestic pressures lead to incidents of extreme emotional distress, domestic violence and suicide attempts.

What can you do about mental illness?

Experiencing a mental illness can be extremely upsetting. A person may not comprehend what’s going on with them and may worry about other people’s reactions. Of course, it’s hard to escape the ever present stigma of mental illness in the workplace which especially sways affected employees from seeking help from others.

Individuals may also be afraid of losing their jobs, fear of confidentiality breaches by colleagues they might confide in or fear being seen as weak or crazy. However, it’s essential to know that mental illness is not a weakness and it’s not your fault. Being open minded will make you feel free in seeking help early before you think of the unimaginable. Finding help early will get you on track to recovery faster and may even lessen the risk of mental issues in future.

And like any other disease, mental illnesses can be treated. Treatment usually involves different approaches including medication, self-care and counseling. Some people might find help from support groups which connect people with common experiences. Others may find supports like housing and income while self-help strategies are also available to try. Generally, every individual has their own particular preferences and objectives while recuperation plans ought to mirror that.

Workplace suicide prevention measures

Employers and HR can step in to curb suicide cases. One thing for sure is they need to educate managers on detecting the symptoms of a possible suicide crisis. Here are some important steps HR managers can take in order to prevent workplace suicides:

Create a friendly workplace

Establish an adaptable workplace in which flexible scheduling, telecommuting and mental health days form part of the way of life of a mentally healthy working environment and are put into policy. Build a quick, proactive and consistent approach to job-related issues, as this is important in assisting employees to feel secure and ready to do their best at work. Come up with a clear non-tolerance policy for bullying, intimidation or harassment of any kind and make sure that the policy is imparted and implemented at all levels.

Train and nurture fully-engaged employees

Encourage workers to engage in their strength areas and in ways that allow them to be strongly dedicated to meaningful work. Employees who feel associated with their colleagues and feel they have a place in something greater than themselves regularly alternate, making sacrifices for bigger benefits. When individuals are given freedom to be vulnerable, trust connections extend and when individuals show up as genuine, authentic leadership develops.

Establish programs that reward mental wellness

Similarly, as work environments offer motivator programs for fitness and nutrition, HR can likewise create ones that offer motivation and opportunities to acquire ideal mental well-being. For instance, workers can earn points when they take workshops on the best way to reduce stress and enhance rest.

Use social marketing to change the conversation

 Build a multimedia campaign that tells individuals they are not alone if they are considering suicide and that numerous resources exist to offer assistance. Connections to associations such as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be shown prominently on the organization’s intranet and employees can be urged to make use of resources such as toll-free Lifeline’s 24-hour and confidential suicide prevention hotline, among others.

Firing a Suicidal Employee

Terminating an employment contract is never a comfortable situation, not in the best of circumstances. HR’s never genuinely know how somebody will respond thus it’s advisable to resist the urge to fire a suicidal employee immediately. In case you arrive at the inevitable, having a vital plan to fire a troubled employee can minimize the risk of violence.

When managing troubled employees, there are special precautionary measures that should be taken into account, especially if there’s the smallest hint that things could turn badly. Here are some of the best practices that will keep a bad situation from turning worse:

  • Avoid firing the employee right before a weekend or holiday; schedule the termination meeting early in the day or during the week. Or if possible, wait until the end of the day to terminate. This protects the dignity of the individual being let go and limits the number of colleagues on hand, should circumstances escalate.
  • Do not take breaks during the termination meeting. The troubled employee might use the time to retrieve a weapon and cause harm. On the same note, consider having a professional threat assessment done before the meeting.
  • Consider using a nonpartisan administrator or outside security specialist to carry out the termination. This is especially critical when dealing with an employee whom you’ve had conflict with, as he or she might assume that your past experience would be the contributing reason.
  • Have security nearby, not in the same room but rather sufficiently close to hear signs of a problem and act accordingly.
  • Reduce any reasons why the employee might have to revisit the company. Have uncollected belongings sent to the individual’s home through a delivery service.

Legal Compliance

Suicide threats should always be taken seriously. The human resource manager or the employee’s supervisor might be the principal individual to identify a possibly suicidal worker, so it’s critical to identify the warning signs and urge the employee at risk to seek help.

In the event that an employee seems to take action immediately, local crisis specialists should be contacted, since HR’s are usually not qualified to deal with such circumstances directly. In case there are doubts of whether the risk is immediate, the HR expert should contact local administrations such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a suicide hotline or a nearby hospital.

Employers should find independent, best practice EAP which can make essential utilization and results for all staff, including those who may be suicidal or in crisis. Many EAPs play an active role in helping companies prevent and manage workplace violence, trauma, and other emergency response conditions.

An EAP that allows workplace referrals or free management consultation can mitigate the need for HR managers to work outside their specialty area. That’s the reason why HR’s should establish strategic partnerships with experts and help save the lives of many employees.

Jay Raol

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