WorkCover and Suicides

In response to a recent post about Workplace Suicides, Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson provided a lengthy comment that I believe deserves a post of its own:

The hardest funeral to say “a few words” at is the funeral of a suicide victim.

The hardest thing to do is look into the hearts of the family and friends of the person in the coffin and try to find a glimmer of hope to gift them to hold onto.

The hardest thing to cope with is knowing that the loved one in the coffin held onto life with both hands until the harshness of life within the WorkCover system became too much to cope with.

The WorkCover industry knows full well that every injured worker has a “breaking point” a point where the injured worker will just agree to anything just to find some reprieve from the pressure from the demands of the WorkCover system/process.

Yet the WorkCover system/process will not own up to the truth that the very same pressure used to get injured workers to their “breaking point” can be just an nth degree away from the injured workers “tipping point”.

I have the greatest respect for the volunteers who gift their time to Life Line and Beyond Blue, they take the calls from the injured workers who are considering suicide.

But these well-meaning people have no training in what the various WorkCover systems can and do do to injured workers.

One injured worker told me that the best advice the person from Life Line could give was to discuss openly all that was wrong with the WorkCover claim with the case manager. The very person who was [in the eyes of the injured worker] the person who was tightening the thumb screws to inflict more pain and break the injured worker even more.

There is no hotline for injured workers or their families to call.

Work Injured Resource Connection has 1 phone line and that is not always answered by a person, sometimes the calls go to the answering machine.

Work Injured Resource Connection doesn’t have the resources needed to open a phone line 24 hours a day to take the emergency calls or to just sit and listen.

Any one who has worked in this industry for a long time knows that there are signals, little indicators or intent.

We do the suicide prevention training, and we cross our fingers, turn our eyes skyward and we hope that the person we are fearful for gets through what ever trauma has set their heart towards suicide.

Yes we need a summit, we as an industry need to be big enough to stop the pretence that the WorkCover process/system does not injure or harm the very people the system/process is in place to help.

We need as an industry to hear the heartache of the families left behind, we need to see the family photos of the Christmas/birthday/weddings/anniversary without the loved one being there.

We need to hear the stories from the workmates and friends and we need to learn the harsh lessons held within the stories and the grief and the tears.

We need to say that there will be a support system built so that injured workers never fear what the WorkCover process/system can do to them.

We need to stand up for the fallen and not allow their lonely deaths be in vain.

I always recite the poem below when I speak at funerals. I know the poem was written for workplace safety, however the safe keeping of an injured workers life also fits.

Yours in service

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson
Work Injured Resource Connection


I Could Have Saved A Life That Day

It wasn’t that I didn’t care
I had the time, and I was there
But I didn’t want to seem a fool
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before.
If I called it wrong, he might get sore.
The chances didn’t seem that bad.
I’d done the same and he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked on by.
He knew the risk as well as I.
He took the chance, I closed an eye
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day.
But I chose to look the other way.
Now every time I see his wife.
I know I could have saved his life.
The guilt is something I must bear
But it isn’t something you need share.
If you see a risk that others take,
That puts their health or life at stake.
The question asked, or thing you say,
Could help them live another day.
If you see risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say.
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way”

Don Merrell

reservoir, victoria, australia

4 thoughts on “WorkCover and Suicides”

  1. I have been on workcover for 2.5 years , 2 seperate shoulder reconstructions , long term recovery , with other people such as workcover doctors surgeons Physio’s psychologist psychiatrists injury assessments psychological pain management doctors , medication and assessments , all determining my future and my total incapacitation to a monetary figure to do with my ability to work , but never taking in the every day things as in the effects with friends family enjoyments hobbies and recreation I can not do anymore , depression anxiety and stress all resulting from workcovers process and illumination of me as there problem , they contributed more to psychological and trauma to my injury than they tried to fix ,

  2. After EML have pushed me and even pestered my doctor to breaking point it sometimes seems like the oy way out, this is really f###ing hard

  3. Thank you Kevin for giving voice to this issue of suicide, my hope is that now the ball is rolling there is enough momentum to keep it moving so that a summit can be put in place and we can start the long road to lives worth living for those who dance with the concepts of suicide as their dance partner.

    Yours in service

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