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Work-Related Suicide and Workplace Suicide Prof. Craig Jackson Head of Psychology Division BCU craig.jackson@bcu.ac.uk health.bcu.ac.uk/ craigjackson. Suicide Media Stories

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slide1

Work-Related Suicide

and

Workplace Suicide

Prof. Craig Jackson

Head of Psychology Division

BCU

craig.jackson@bcu.ac.uk

health.bcu.ac.uk/craigjackson

slide2

Suicide Media Stories

“A teacher who set herself alight had complained about pressure of work, an inquest has been told. Janet Dibb, 28, had complained to her father about overwork.”

20 March 2004

“A family doctor hanged herself because of stress at work, an inquest has heard. Bury coroners' court was told Dr Dawn Harris, 38, who worked at the Lever Chambers practice in Bolton, became ‘angry, very distressed and quite hurt’ by problems at the busy medical practice.”

22 May 2004

1. Over-emotive

2. Blames “extreme stress response”

3. Always best when involving females!

slide3

Workplace and Work-Related Suicide

  • Death with “underlying cause of intentional self-harm or injury or poisoning”
  • Work-Related Suicide (WRS) and Workplace Suicide (WS) not the same
  • WRS has element attributed to workplace
  • Workplace suicides defined by location of decedent when passed away
  • Location-based method of WS may inflate counts of WS
  • farmers’ high Workplace Suicide rate
      • self-employed high Workplace Suicide rate
  • UK estimates 100-250 WRS per year – but could be way off the mark
slide4

Suicide and Seafarers

Roberts et al. 2009

Methods Examination of seafarers’ death inquiry files

The suicide rate (for suicides at work and unexplaineddisappearances at sea) in UK shipping fell from 40–50per 100 000 in the 1920s to <10 per 100 000 in recent years,with an interim peak during the 1960s.

Suicide rates were higherfor all ranks below officers

forLascars (Asian seafarers) than for British seafarers

forolder than for younger seafarers

were typically lower thanthose in Asian and Scandinavian merchant fleets

The suiciderate among seafarers was higher than the overall suicide rate in the general population from 1919 to 1970s, but following reductionsin suicide mortality among seafarers, it has become more comparablesince.

slide5

Suicide and Seafarers

  • Roberts et al. 2009
  • Conclusions
  • Although merchant seafaring was previously a high-riskoccupation for suicides at work, there has been a sharp fallin the suicide rate in the past 40 years.
  • Likely reasons forthis include:
  • reductions over time in long intercontinental voyages
  • (2) changes over time in seafarers’ lifestyles.
slide6

Suicide and Physicians & Dentists

Petersen & Burnett 2008

Some studies have shown that physicians and dentists have elevated risks of suicide, while other studies have not.

Using all deaths and corresponding census data in 26 US states, they examined the suicide risk for working physicians and dentists.

Death and census data for working people were obtained from 1984-1992.

Age standardized suicide rate ratios (SRRs) were calculated for white male and white female physicians, and white male dentists.

slide7

Suicide and Physicians & Dentists

Petersen & Burnett 2008

Comment

Petersen and Burnett say that health professionals have high performance expectations.

Suicide occursin other professional groups who put in significant effort tobecome established in society.

Authors left out many factors which may have influencedthe data

Marital status of doctors? self-poisoning? Addiction? Psychiatric disorders?

The working atmosphere is very important in the causation ofsuicide.

Overwork and burden of work are the precipitating factors.

slide8

Suicide and Physicians & Dentists

Petersen & Burnett 2008

White female physicians - suicide rate elevated compared to the working US population (SRR 2.39, 95% CI 5 1.52–3.77).

White male physicians and dentists - suicide rates were reduced (SRR 0.80, 95% CI 5 0.53–1.20 and 0.68, 95% CI 5 0.52–0.89, respectively).

Older white male physicians and dentists, observed suicide rates were elevated

Conclusions

White female physicians have an elevated suicide rate. Only older white male physicians and dentists have elevated suicide rates, which partially explains the varied conclusions in the literature.

slide9

Case – PT: Bullying

  • PT (female armed response officer, 37) suicide in 2004
  • hanged at home
  • 2003 Dismissed from firearms duties - poor proficiency
  • One of two female firearms officers in 90-strong unit
  • One of first female snipers in UK
  • Complained of colleagues viewing pornographic video on a residential course
  • Felt victimised in macho culture of firearms unit.
  • Fell out with a number of influential male colleagues
  • Sefton Coroner Christopher Sumner: “Paula Tomlinson killed herself at a time that she was suffering from stress, a contributory factor of which was work related.”
  • IPCC found no evidence of bullying or intimidation
  • Did acknowledge management failings and an “in-crowd culture”
slide10

Workplace Prevention Policy

Observable in 75% of decedents in few weeks before death

Suspecting a colleague is contemplating suicide is difficult

Uncertain of what help to get

Not knowing where to send the sufferer

Reluctance to pry

The problems associated with suicide – drink, drugs, depression, bi-polar

disorder require professional assistance

One of the most important things that workplaces can do for someone who

may be considering suicide is to help him or her find professional help.

slide11

Workplace Aftermath

Traumatic for surviving staff

Even if not Workplace Suicide

Guilt over what could have been done

Some workers experience depression and consider suicide themselves

Grief counselling offered for those who want it (post-vention)

Let individual worker decide about post-vention

The need for Workplaces to Develop (i) Suicide Prevention and (ii) Aftermath Policies

slide13

France Telecom Case

Privatised in 1998

40,000 jobs gone since 1998

186,000 employees

45% of those outside France

Used to be public sector employer

new working conditions

modernisation

cultural & organisational changes needed

internal job transfers

4.3% fall in profits in 1Q of 2009

182 million customers in 5 continents

slide15

France Telecom Case

  • Between Feb 2008 – Sep 2009
  • 23 staff committed suicide
  • 9th Sept: 49 yr old male employee stabbed himself in meeting – told he would be undergoing internal job transfer
  • 11th Sep: 32 yr old female employee leapt to death from office window
  • 14th Sep 53 yr old senior manager overdosed
  • 1st Oct: 51yr old male employee jumped from road bridge – note blamed work “atmosphere”
  • French suicide rate: 26.4 per 100,000 male deaths
  • 9.2 per 100,000 female deaths
  • 17.8 per 100,000 all deaths
slide16

France Telecom’s Defence

  • France Telecom’s two-point defence:
    • “There were 28 suicides in the company in 2000, so 23 suicides over 17 months is actually an improvement and not evidence of an epidemic”
  • 2) “Most suicides caused by personal problems not professional ones”
slide17

France Telecom Case

Oct 2009

Deputy CEO Louis-Pierre Wenes (second in command) resigns

CEO Didier Lombard – vowed to end the “Spiral of death”

Phone helpline

Counselling

Suspending job transfers

French Labour Minister, Xavier Darcos wants:

2,500 biggest companies to plan “anti-stress” strategies

Plan it with Unions

Govt has 27% stake in FT

Health & Happiness now on “National Agenda” in France

slide18

Foxconn and the iPad

Manufacturing giant in China

Renowned for efficiency – 300,000 employees

Laptops, mobiles - Nokia, Apple, Dell HP

13 suicide attempts since Jan 2010 – 10 deaths

slide21

Foxconn and the iPad

Compensation for families in poverty

Working conditions – long shifts, rigid,

Oppressive, poor pay

Company asked workers to sign a letter promising not to kill themselves

(now withdrawn)

Building giant safety net to prevent jumpers from Dorms and Workshops

Hiring counsellors and Buddhist monks

slide22

Research limitations

  • Suicide multi-causal
  • End-stage of complex process
  • Attracts emotive reporting in media
  • Workplace suicide received little / no academic attention
  • Occupational attribution straightforward in many cases
  • Workplace factors ascertained by
    • Notes
    • Recorded trouble at work
    • Coincidence with unusual workplace situation / landmarks
    • Compounded home-life complications
    • Occupational health history
slide23

Case – TB: Overwork / Depression

TB (male engineer, 28) suicide in 2002 – hanged at home

Been working for 1 year in Singapore

Had party celebrating end of contract

2 suicide notes:

First addressed work colleagues “unfortunately the game has got the better of me – give my apologies to all the lads”

Second addressed his parents “I have been depressed for a while now – pressure of work has turned my mind into a ticking time bomb”

Cardiff Coroner – Mary Hassell: “It is hard to understand why someone described as happy-go-lucky should choose to end their own life over pressure in work.”

slide24

Complications to Stats

  • FACTITIOUS INJURY
  • Deliberate self-harm to be discovered or hidden
  • A wish to “escape” rather than to end life
  • PARASUICIDE
  • Non-successful overdoses written off as cry for help
  • Very hard to secure death in a non-painful and non-traumatic way
  • Distinction between suicidal attempt and suicidal “gesture” is hard
  • Conversely, death from suicidal “gesture” can occur
  • Some fake suicide to avoid problems e.g. debt, law, marriage
slide25

Complications to Stats

SUICIDAL ATTACKS

Classified as Murder or Homicide

“MESSY” CASES

Michael Todd case

Suicide following being caught after several affairs

Work-related????

ASSISTED SUICIDE

Hot topic

Over 100 UK citizens

No prosecutions

Murder?

slide26

Epidemiology of World Suicide

  • 1 million suicide deaths per year worldwide
  • 10 – 20 million attempts (huge variation)
  • Suicide ideation / rumination even higher
  • WS comprises 3.5% of workplace fatalities worldwide (Pegula 2004)
  • Nearly 50% of first-time attempts fail
  • Those with history of repeated attempts X 23 likely to die by suicide
slide31

Epidemiology of Suicide in the UK

Males Females

30 suicides per 10 suicides per 100,000 deaths in Scotland

22 suicides per 6 suicides per 100,000 deaths in Wales

18 suicides per 5.6 suicides per 100,000 deaths in Northern Ireland

16 suicides per 5.4 suicides per 100,000 deaths in England

Ages 15-44 have highest suicide rate in males

Ages 75+ have highest suicide rate in females

slide33

Epidemiology of Suicide in the UK

Slow decrease in UK suicide rates since 1990s

75% of suicidal deaths are Male

Sex split been same since 1991 – but may just reflect methods used

2006 5554 suicides in adults (15 or over)

2007 5377 suicides in adults (15 or over)

2008 5706 suicides in adults (15 or over)

slide35

Epidemiology of Suicide in the Midlands

1998-2004

Wolves 22.1 per 100,000 deaths 146 cases #101

Birmingham 19.3 per 100,000 deaths 541 cases #172

Dudley 18.0 per 100,000 deaths 147 cases #215

Coventry 17.3 per 100,000 deaths 146 cases #245

Sandwell 16.6 per 100,000 deaths 125 cases #268

Walsall 15.9 per 100,000 deaths 105 cases #294

Solihull 13.8 per 100,000 deaths 74 cases #363

Can we pin any of this to industry, ethnicity, decline, deprivation ????

slide39

Case – TC: Chronic Ill-health / Depression

TC (male mechanic, 37) suicide in 2002

1996 right ear severed in accident at work IBC Vehicles Luton

Prolonged tinnitus, headache, severe depression

2005 TCs widow at High Court for £750,000

IBC accepts liability for accident – not suicide. Awarded £82,520

Court of Appeal overturned award – Lord Justice Sedley claimed there to be no other cause. TC had previously been a

“rational man. . . The suicide was proved to have been a function of the depression and so formed part of the damage for which IBC were liable. . . To treat TC as responsible for his own death was an unjustified exception to modern views on the links between accidents and their causes”.

slide40

Complexity

  • Emotive reporting of WRS suicides
  • Coroner’s & Inquests often too narrow in scope
  • Wrongly suggests WRS is “final remedy” for workplace problems e.g. stress
  • Suicide is complex final stage behaviour with many antecedents
    • Socio-demographics
    • Childhood experiences
    • Psychiatric morbidity / history
    • Recent stressful life events
    • Social interactions / supports
slide41

Complexity of Background

  • Beautrais (2001)
  • Following are all common to suicide & attempts:
  • current mood disorder
  • previous suicide attempts
  • prior outpatient psychiatric treatment
  • admission to psychiatric hospital within the previous year
  • low income
  • absence of educational qualifications
  • recent stressful interpersonal, legal & work-related life events.
  • Many suicidents do not fit this profile
slide42

Suicides and Recession – Japanese Data

Suicides risen since 1989 and financial decline

Climbed higher in 1997 recession

Seems a natural end-point considering over-work and working hours

Joins UN

Financial boom

Recession

slide43

Suicides and Recession

Prof Natalie Jeremiienko – Bureau of Inverse Technology Engineering

Created "Despondency Index" - correlating the Dow Jones Industrial Average with number of jumpers

Detected by "Suicide Boxes" containing motion-detecting cameras, under the bridge.

Boxes recorded 17 jumps in three months

slide44

High Risk Occupations

US Data from 10,000 suicides and 135,000 deaths

15 occupations with higher / lower risk than the general pop.

Reduced to 8 after adjustment for socio-demographics

Dentists (X 5.4) Doctors (X 2.3) Scientists (X 1.5)

Nurses (X 1.5) Social workers (X 1.5) Artists (X 1.2)

Farm workers (X 0.69) Admin staff (X 0.85)

UK picture different – suggests Farm workers & Veterinary have one of highest rates (Mellanby, 2005)

slide45

Predicting Occupational Risk

  • Stack (2001) Four stage model
  • Internal job stress
  • Job with Opportunity for suicide  dentists, vets, pharmacy, farming
  • Pre-existing psychiatric morbidity
  • Socio-demographics ????
  • May explain differences in WS but not WRS
  • Psychosocial factors at work
  • stress leads increased
  • demands to risk of
  • control job ill
  • support strain health

?

slide46

Job Specific Factors

  • Vets and Farmers
  • Functional use of euthanasia
  • Facilitate a “Good death”
  • Long working hours
  • Rural isolation
  • Client dependence
  • Social isolation
  • Not adapting to change / flux
  • Attitudes to suicide and (non) help-seeing behaviour
  • This may serve to make suicide seem like a plausible solution to problems
  • Jobs with “Gallows Humour” Police, Nursing, Military, Fire, Ambulance ?
slide47

Suicide Space

  • Access to lethal means
  • Opportunity for solitude
  • Freedom of movement
  • Location away from assistance
slide48

Behavioural Yellow Flags

  • Observable in 75% of decedents in few weeks before death
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • History of suicide in family
  • Begin “tidying up” affairs
  • Person acting completely out of character
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Periods of difficulty and change – holiday periods, prior to disciplinary hearings
slide49

More Behavioural Yellow Flags

  • recent bereavement or other life-altering loss
  • recent break-up of a close relationship
  • major disappointment (failed exams or missed job promotion)
  • major change in circumstance (retirement, redundancy, children leaving)
  • physical illness
  • mental illness
  • substance misuse / addiction
  • deliberate self-harm, (particularly in women)
  • previous suicide attempts
  • loss of close friend / relative by suicidal means
  • loss of status
  • feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and worthlessness
  • declining performance in work and other (sometimes this can be reversed)
  • declining interest in friends, sex, or previous activities
  • Neglect of personal welfare and hygiene
  • Alterations in sleeping habits (either direction) or eating habits
slide50

Background

  • Hunch #1
  • Greatest risk of suicide in UK males = 16-44yrs (the working years)
  • Japan has greatest suicide rate in world
  • UK working becoming similar to Japan e.g long hours
  • unpaid overtime
  • schooling system
  • Hunch #2
  • Jobs with greatest exposure to deaths / suffering
  • Jobs with death as a “practical solution”
  • Jobs with means of effective suicide
  • Jobs with “gallows humour”
  • Hunch #3
  • Economic downturn
  • Recession
  • Redundancies

Observable increase in suicides

Comparable between jobs

Adjust for sociodemographic factors

Assess Occupational Risk

slide51

Conclusion

  • Complex individual response to many factors
  • Leaves decedent feeling they have no other option
  • At times, workplace may be one such set of factors
  • Hard to ascertain relative magnitude of effect of work
  • Not a natural evolution of the “stress epidemic”
  • Broad range of behavioural signs make workplace detection possible
  • Develop tool for workplace health surveillance
  • Emerging issue requiring further attention
  • from Occupational Health Professionals
slide52

References

Etzersdorfer, E., L. Vijayakumar, W. Schöny, A. Grausgruber and G.

Sonneck (1998). Attitudes towards suicide among medical students:

comparison between Madras (India) and Vienna (Austria). Social Psychiatry

and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 33. 3. 104-110.

Gibb, B. E., M. S. Andover and S. R. Beach (2006). Suicidal ideation and

attitudes toward suicide. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior. 36. 1. 12-8.

Hawton, K and van Heeringen, K (eds). (2000). The International Handbook

of Suicide and Attempted Suicide.Chichester, Wiley.

Jackson CA. (2008) Work-Related Suicide. Management of Health Risks.

126: 2-8.

Karasek, R. and T. Theorell (1990). Healthy work: stress, productivity, and

the reconstruction of working life. New York, Basic Books.

slide53

References

Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude and mental strain:

implications for job design. Administrative Science Quarterley. 24. 285-308.

Mellanby, R. J. (2005). Incidence of suicide in the veterinary profession in

England and Wales. Veterinary Record. 157. 14. 415-7.

Sawyer, D. and J. Sobal (1987). Public Attitudes Toward Suicide Demographic

and Ideological Correlates. The Public Opinion Quarterly. 51. 1. 92-101.

Siegrist, J. (1996). Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions.

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 1. 27-41.

Stack, S. (2001). Occupation and Suicide. Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell

Publishing Limited) 82. 2. 384.

slide54

References

Stansfeld, S., R. Fuhrer, M. Shipley and M. Marmot (2002). Psychological

distress as a risk factor for coronary heart disease in the Whitehall II Study.

International Journal of Epidemiology 31. 248-255.

Stansfeld, S. A., R. Fuhrer, J. Head, J. Ferrie and M. Shipley (1997). Work

and psychiatric disorder in the Whitehall II Study. Journal of Psychosomatic

Research. 43. 1. 73-81.

Vilhjalmsson, R., E. Sveinbjarnardottir and G. Kristjansdottir (1998). Factors

associated with suicide ideation in adults. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric

Epidemiology. 33. 3. 97-103.