Better Workplaces Mean Less Suicides
24 February 2014 at 11:15 am
The workplace plays a vital role in creating a suicide safe community, according to a new position statement released by Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA).
The Statement calls on organisations of all sizes to implement workplace policies and programs that promote a mentally healthy workforce and prevent suicide behaviours.
The Statement provides recommendations for employers to take action to prevent suicide. It also offers in-depth analysis of the case for change, including risk factors, evidence-based activities and programs that can be implemented in the workplace, and policy analysis.
SPA CEO Sue Murray said most deaths by suicide are among people of working age. Suicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 25–44 years and females aged 25–34 years.
She said one Australian study found that 17% of suicides in Victoria from 2000–2007 were work related.
“Suicide is mostly preventable yet significant gaps exist in our understanding of the relationship between work and suicide, limiting prevention efforts,” Murray said.
She said the World Health Organisation suggests worker suicide is a result of complex interaction between individual vulnerabilities and work-related environmental factors that trigger stress reactions and contribute to poor mental wellbeing. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including managing psychosocial stressors.
“Employers may be surprised at how simple it can be to take an active role in suicide prevention,” Murray said.
“There is a wide range of support available from organisations working in mental health and suicide prevention to assist employers prepare for and respond to suicide."
SPA’s Statement provides practical information for responding to suicide, including case studies and links to resources to help organisations implement the recommendations. It also highlights the importance of business leaders taking an active role in promoting a culture that supports mental health promotion.
“We have seen outstanding leadership from the construction, rail and superannuation industries and as a result these groups are leading the way in workplace suicide prevention in Australia,” Murray said, adding that case studies available in the position statement highlight successful programs.
In addition, SPA believes urgent action is required to address a range of systemic issues including managing unemployment, workers compensation and coronial processes.
Murray said evidence from Europe suggests that an increase of 1 per cent in the unemployment rate relates to a 0.79 per cent increase in suicide rates. In the USA they have seen more of a 1-to-1 relationship.
“This is the dark shadow cast by rising unemployment levels. It is critical that we invest in suicide prevention as well as labour market programs during times of economic downturn,” she said.
SPA is the backbone organisation of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention that includes more than 20 Not for Profit organisations including beyondblue, Lifeline, Black Dog Institute, R U OK? Day, SANE, National LGBTI Health Alliance.
Together, the National Coalition says it is targeting men of working age in their suicide prevention efforts.
SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath, endorsed and “applauded” the SPA statement, saying over 2,000 Australians take their lives every year and the majority of these deaths are among people of working age (25-44).
He said research suggests almost one in five of these suicides is employment-related. Males are more at risk of dying in this way than females, with a suicide rate up to four times higher.??
“Australia has the capacity to halve the suicide rate within 10 years if we have the will and resources to do it.” Heath said.
“The tragic loss of life among working age adults is an issue that urgently needs to be tackled in the workplace itself, where we spend so much of our lives, and which can be the source of so much stress – especially to those who are vulnerable because of poor mental health or other factors,” he said.
“?The workplace is also a great place to connect with men who might be struggling…and is therefore a critically important focus for suicide prevention activities and promotion of good mental health.”
Information about SANE’s activities in this area can be found here.
SPA’s position statement on Work and Suicide Prevention can be downloaded here.