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.