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Workplace Suicide: An International Concern

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of workplace suicide statistics but urges caution when reviewing the figures because it doesn’t account for work-related suicides which occur outside of the workplace. Between 2007 and 2008, workplace suicides increased 28%, with a reported 251 workplace suicides in 2008 nationwide but in 2009, the number of suicides in the workplace decreased 10%.

There seems to be a few patterns surrounding workplace suicides, which may increase the likelihood of a suicide in the workplace. For example:

  • In 2008, 94% of workplace suicides were committed by men.

  • While workers in the age range of 45 to 54 only represent 25% of hours worked; the workplace suicide rate is highest among employees in this age range, accounting for 36% of suicides in the workplace.

  • In 2008, 78% of workplace suicides were committed by white workers.

  • In 2008, 14% of workplace suicides were committed by employees in management occupations.

Suicides in the workplace is an international concern. France Telecom SA had a string of 23 employee suicides that were blamed on restructuring and layoffs. At least 13 workers at Foxconn Technology in China tried to or succeeded in killing themselves on the job.

Richard Shadick, the director of Pace University’s Counseling Center and adjunct professor of psychology and a suicide expert, says the number of suicides taking place at work is “…a ripple effect from the economic problems we’re seeing.” The economic problems of the global economy is more than the loss of a job – health benefits, homes, and families are torn apart. The increase of stress causes disruptions in relationships, an increase in workplace bullying, or causes or increases mental health problems. As a result, Shadick says, “Suicide, anxiety, depression, substance abuse are all of concern, particularly during these scary times.”

Money plays a large role in our lives. As a general rule, people carry too much debt. Even if we don’t have a lot of debt, people have children and families to care for and the idea that their source of income could be taken from them is unbearable.

People define themselves by their jobs. Most of our lives are spent in the office and when it’s discovered that they’ll be downsized or laid off – mentally this takes a toll on many people. All of that time away from their families, all of that effort – and it didn’t mean anything.  This mindset can lead to work related suicide.

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of losing your job or your work responsibilities – please discuss it with your company’s Employee Assistance Program if you have one. If not, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.