Suicide research and cultural change

I often have my “western” assumptions punctured by evidence from the non-western or majority world.  Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on workplace suicide statistics but a report made available through the World Health Organisation says

“Low-income countries in Asia and the Pacific have the highest burden of suicide in the world.   These countries are among the poorest globally, and face many social and political challenges.”

This report reminds me that although the westerners may claim to be short of resources, most countries have much less yet  are still morally obliged to provide social support.  It also speaks about cultural change and the application of new strategies.

The researchers write that

“Suicide prevention initiatives need to be specifically developed for each area or country and should consider both contextual limitations (e.g. limited funding and human capital, negative cultural attitudes) and strengths (e.g. motivation to reduce suicide, effective community engagement and support).”

Many countries have the propensity to import social programs, including safety programs such as behavioural-based safety, without acknowledging the countries’ unique social profiles.  Local wisdom overrides imported every time but this should not mean that countries miss out.  Local and regional experts should be called upon to assess new strategies to determine application.   This is not to say that locals should become brainwashed agents of Western cultural imperialism.  If the strategies have success in the country of origin, the strategy should be considered for local application but must be assessed first.

It may be that the strategy will succeed with local tweaking but each country must be given the opportunity not just to tailor a possible solution but to add value to the strategy by integrating local needs into the strategy.

Safety professionals and social advocates, even  the latest overseas expert, will have greater success in implementing any new strategy by first listening to the locals or customer, if you wish, and then not just adding a module or changing the background image of a Powerpoint presentation but allowing the local culture to make the strategy its own.

Suicide (and safety) strategies do not need missionaries.  Communities and countries need to be included in the decision-making and strategic development so they apply new knowledge in new areas in new ways.  In this way positive cultural change may be possible and lives could be saved.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

4 thoughts on “Suicide research and cultural change”

  1. It truly is a double edged sword. The circumstances that create the thought and, god forbid, the act and then the calm intervention of those like Rosemary and her friends who are obviously effective in assisting people to regain some perspective and control over matters.

    In the context of suicides, which are described as workers compensation claims management related, there is a malevolent undertone in the whole sorry situation that really does need to be independently investigated. We hear the agency and statutory authority mouthing words of preventative action and policy to intervene, however, we see nothing relating to claims management policy to ensure that injured workers are treated in a humane and sympathetic manner that will not give rise to suicidal thought as result of, what some may describe, as the malevolent behaviour of case managers, usually as result of the profit imperative of the agent, or the need to satisfy the statistical and cost outcomes imposed by the statutory authority.

    It is unfortunate and entirely avoidable, but I see increases in suicidal behaviour of workers in South Australia as being inevitable, given the morally bankrupt workers compensation law and its administration in that state.

  2. I can not agree totally with V V Mahesh Kumar in that suicides are hasty acts. Over the many years I have been working within the WorkCover industry I have come in contact with many injured workers who have considered suicide and even attempted suicide -and yes sadly even completed suicide.

    The contemplations and the attempts at suicide have been well planned and well considered.

    I acknowledge that the consequences of suicide are not always considered, however the consequences of many actions are not well considered.

    One injured worker who took his own life last year had planned the suicide down to the very last detail, it was estimated that the suicide took well over 4 months to plan and carry out.

    Another suicide victim ensured that his partner had extended family in place for the post suicide support that was going to be needed.

    Yes there are spontaneous suicides, just as there is spontaneous shop lifting or red light running etc.

    Sadly it appears that there is much more to learn about the contemplation/attempt/completion of suicide than is currently being done.

  3. I feel that suicides are hasty acts committed in the circumstances, which could not be overcome emotionally at that time. As remarked earlier, if there is someone to listen or if the person under emotional attack sits quiet and reviews his decision after a week or so, he feels better and by that time would have found solution to his so called problems. He may even laugh at himself for thinking of committing suicide. Many times, we find solutions to our problems when we sit quiet or meditate. All such problems which appeared insurmountable will look silly and the person will develop self confidence having weathered those problems by sitting back to think and solve the same.

  4. Kevin you have used and amazing word the word \”listen\” not just to hear but actually to \”listen\” to what is being said.

    So much of my work is time spent \”listening\” to the spoken and the unspoken words of injured workers.
    Words and phrases used to outline and describe the immediate and the long-terms issues, concerns and fears when they are truly heard tell the listener a great deal more than when the words are heard but not listened to.

    Injured workers often tell me that I am the first person to just sit and listen to them, no judgment passed, no questions asked, no interruptions, just sitting and listening.
    Then when the story is told, and the tears are dried or the frustration released healing of the heart and mind can and does begin.

    Listening requires a certain clarity of heart and mind that I can not actually describe, it requires a focus of attention and a focus of the eyes upon the speaker.
    Listening also requires time, there can be nothing rushed or urgent, it requires silence and support, compassion and empathy.

    I am certain that when some one has reached the point of contemplation of suicide that if that point he/she was able to speak and know that they were being listened to and understood we would have less suicides simply because the person would know that they have some one who believes in them.

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