Workplace suicides have matched the record high. In both 2008 and 2009, 263 persons took their lives on the job. The year before, 2007, 196 persons killed themselves on the job. We are not talking about Chinese workers in the iPad factory here. We are talking about American workers. And while these are not large numbers, really, they certainly are notable.
According to an article written by Ruth Mantell for Market Watch, most people who killed themselves on the job were men. Wage and salary workers actually saw a reduction in suicides, while the quantity of suicides among the self employed increased. Typically, during recessions and economic downturns suicides increase. Workers are under more stress. They are financially pressed, especially small business owners who see their revenue decline. Workers fear for their jobs, worry about downturns. The pressure of it all builds up at home and creates ancillary conflicts.
And then there is that little matter of employees being worked to the bone. Companies downsize in economic crisis, and even when there is a turn around, they are reluctant to rehire their former complement of employees. In some cases the employers are being cautious and fear a double dip recession. In others, simply put, the employers have learned to do more with less. Doing with fewer employees may improve the bottom line, but the added pressure on the remaining employees, may lead to additional consequences. Ultimately, it is one thing to demand more in a crisis, but at another level if you work your employees too long and too hard there will be diminishing returns. Issues like substance abuse arise in these conditions. Workplace violence increases. And then the there are the few who choose to take their own lives.
Many people define themselves by their work. If they are no longer working there is the potential for an identity crisis and along with financial and domestic difficulties, some will lapse into despair.
In harsh economic times, there are certain numbers where we relish their increase. Workplace suicides is certainly not one of them.