Safety and risk professionals often need to consider the “worst case scenario”. But we hesitate to look at the worst case scenario of workplace mental health – suicide. On 26 August 2011, Lifeline presented a seminar to Victorian public servants that was brilliant, confronting and worrying.
Lifeline campaigns on suicide prevention and it seems to do this through discussion and counselling. It outlines not the “warning signs” but the “help signs” that one needs to look for in our work colleagues. According to Lifeline, possible life changes can include:
- “Recent loss (a loved one, a job, an income/livelihood, a relationship, a pet)
- Major disappointment (failed exams, missed job promotions)
- Change in circumstances (separation/divorce, retirement, redundancy, children leaving home)
- Mental disorder or physical illness/injury
- Suicide of a family member, friend or a public figure
- Financial and/or legal problems.”
Many of these issues can be helped by talking about them but, in OHS-speak, that is an administrative control in the hierarchy of controls. The OHS professionals’ job is to determine if the risks can be mitigated or eliminated and this is where many OHS professionals fail.
It may be unfair to call it a failure, as the professional may simply not have the skills necessary to look beyond the hazard and determine a control measure. In this context, the OHS profession and its members must be engaged in social reform. If any of the workplace hazards are generated by, or exacerbated by, n0n-work related factors, the OHS professional must consider methods to reduce those non-work hazards. Continue reading “Suicide challenges the OHS profession”