When Work Kills – new research on workplace suicides

There are many advocates of the importance of a mental health and wellbeing in workplaces.  But few of them address the worst-case scenario for workplace mental health of work-related suicides.  In some cases, the mental health advocates are overly cautious about even speaking the reality, which does not help reduce mental health stigma.

In 2016 Professor Stewart Clegg, of UTS Business School said that

“That work can kill the will to live is a fundamental ethical problem that we must attend to…”

New research from the UK provides a useful summary of the work-related and workplace suicides in Europe with important lessons of where precarious employment and the “gig economy” could lead.

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More books on the Christmas list

There were three books that I left off my Christmas/Summer reading list.  Each of them important for my occupational health and safety (OHS) professional development and personal curiosity.

cover-of-rethink001The first is Rethink – The Surprising History of New Ideas by Steven Poole. This books looks at what we think are new ideas and sees the precursors or the ideas’ previous appearances.  I was attracted to this perspective because I am seeing a lot of new ideas in OHS that are familiar and similar to what has come before.   Continue reading “More books on the Christmas list”

Firefighting mental health report leaked

cover-of-mfb-mental-health-reportThe Herald-Sun newspaper has released the final report into the mental health and suicide rate of Victorian metropolitan firefighters.

The report, authored by Dr Peter Cotton, found that the issues uncovered in the review of firefighters in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) are not dissimilar from the findings of other inquiries into emergency service organisations like the police or the ambulance service.  

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Japanese depression contrasts the Western understanding of workplace mental health

frustrated young asian businessman

Australian workplace mental health advocates often seem to shy away from discussions of suicide, perhaps because suicides are not a regular occurrence at work or because work-related suicide remains stigmatised.  To better understand this overlap between suicide and mental health, and the working environment, it may be useful to look at the Japanese experience where work-related suicides, specifically karoshi, seems to have occurred before the appearance or recognition of mental ill-health and depression.

Recently the BBC released a series of broadcasts and podcasts looking at mental health issues.  The first episode discussed “Depression in Japan”.  The whole series Borders of Sanity will be of interest to mental health students and professionals but the Japanese episode reinforces that the recognition and treatment of depression is not the same around the world.  The appearance of depression in Japan is a very recent occurrence and shows the links between mental health and culture, particularly as it relates to the role of work, our place in work and our relationships with our bosses.

Japan has a unique approach to work and the relationships within work.  Some of the practices have been exported to other countries as we have seen in companies like Toyota but the perception of workload, diligence, commitment and loyalty has some echoes in Western workplaces.

Karoshi has been reported on in the West many times before, often as a peculiar quirk of the Orient but the recent BBC podcast is less about suicide and more about depression and mental health.  The West has a long tradition of psychoanalysis where stress, anxiety and depression have been defined, refined and integrated into our cultures.  This is still in its early stages in Japan and the full podcast is a fascinating counterpoint to the Western perception of workplace mental health.

Kevin Jones

“Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched

KJ SFH HeadshotIt has been my intention for many years to establish a conversational podcast with a workplace safety lawyer. The opportunity to pitch the idea occurred earlier this year and the first episode of Cabbage Salad and Safety is now available.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh of Corrs Chambers Westgarth (pictured right with the author) was the lucky lawyer and she has been enormously supportive also providing the recording equipment, personnel and opportunity. Continue reading ““Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched”

Suicide Prevention Forum and Mental Health First Aid for workers

In March 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest figures into the causes of death. A lot of media attention was given to the figures showing an increase in the suicide rate.  It found that

“Among those aged 15 to 44, the leading causes of death were Intentional self-harm (suicide)…”

Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016
Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016

On the day those figures were released, the

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Left in the abyss – the impact of a workplace death on relatives

In 2013, the University of Sydney established a research project into how workplace deaths affect the families of deceased workers.  In its information to participants, it stated:

“We are inviting you to participate in a study investigating the consequences of workplace death for surviving families. It will also consider how well official responses, such as workers’ compensation the provision of information and support, meet families’ needs. The aim is to identify improvements that will help to better manage the consequences of workplace death for surviving families.”

Two years later, the researchers have released some interim data.

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Bridging Health and Safety, a matter of urgency as well as good business sense?

Susan Fleming, Managing Director of Acting Consulting Training Australia attended a breakfast seminar on November 10 2015 and has provided this guest post .

“We have been shouting about safety for some time and in contrast whispering about well-being and health in the workplace. We need to address this as a matter of urgency”

Perth breakfast seminar 101115Judith Hackitt, Chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive addressed the issue of University of Western Australia Centre For Safety (UWA Centre for Safety) breakfast on 10 November 2015.

In a prudent and well-programmed session, the UWA Centre for Safety inspired good debate about the business impact the well-being of employees is having on the workplace.

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