1 February 2014
Most deaths by suicide are among people of working age. Suicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 25–44 years and females aged 25–34 years. The proportion of suicides that are work-related is unclear. One Australian study found that 17% of suicides in Victoria from 2000–2007 were work-related. Applying this estimate to deaths across Australia, approximately 3,800 suicides over the decade to 2011 may be work-related. Adults spend about a third of their waking hours at work. The workplace provides a unique opportunity to provide key health information and intervention. Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) sees the workplace as playing a vital role in the creation of a suicide safe community. The World Health Organisation suggests worker suicide is a result of complex interaction between individual vulnerabilities and work-related environmental factors that trigger stress reactions and contribute to poor mental wellbeing. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including managing psychosocial stressors. Suicide is mostly preventable yet significant gaps exist in our understanding of the relationship between work and suicide, limiting prevention efforts. SPA has reviewed the existing evidence and summarised key issues in this document. We believe urgent action is required to address a range of systemic issues including managing unemployment, workers compensation and coronial processes. In addition, we call on organisations of all sizes to implement workplace policies and programs that promote a mentally healthy workforce and prevent suicide behaviours.