- The HR Digest reports that the incidence of employee suicides is rising globally. About one million workers have killed themselves to date, including over 30,000 Americans.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 1,719 male and female workers committed suicide at work between 2003 and 2007. The increase in self-inflicted deaths at work has intensified since 2007, the report says.
- The causes of workplace suicides are attributed to pressure from competition with colleagues, targets and deadlines.
According to The HR Digest, an imbalance among all aspects of a worker’s life — be it mental, physical, social, economic or spiritual — can cause the kind of suffering that leads to suicide. HR has a responsibility to try to minimize the risk of workplace suicide by helping employees find harmony between their social and work lives.
Recognizing the signs of mental illness won’t necessarily prevent workplace suicide, but, as a first step, HR can train managers to spot employees who might be struggling emotionally.
Employers can create a positive work environment by offering flexible schedules, telecommuting options and mental health days, which can release some of the built-up pressures associated with work. Communicating and enforcing no-tolerance policies against bullying, harassment and intimidation also help.
HR’s message to all employees should be that getting help with problems is a strength rather than a weakness, and that they aren’t the cause of extreme stress or its by-product, mental illness. A number of employer-sponsored wellness programs now feature mental and financial well-being regimens, along with physical exercise and healthy eating plans.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are another confidential no- or low-cost source of help for troubled workers. Employers should also make workers aware of crisis intervention networks, hotlines and other emergency resources.
Emotionally distraught employees whose performance has seriously deteriorated might need to be terminated. HR Digest recommends that employers not fire these workers right away, since many are already frightened by job-related pressures, including the prospect of being terminated.