Suicide And The Workplace: What You Need To Know

Over the last few weeks, the crisis of suicide has once again come to the forefront. People around the world were devastated to hear of the news of both designer Kate Spade and chef and author Anthony Bourdain dying by suicide.

It left many people confused, angry and wondering just how anyone could do that – especially people so loved and appreciated.

But suicide doesn’t discriminate. It is a global crisis.

Every year nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide and we do not have a national strategy in place to deal with it.

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One important place to start with prevention is in the workplace. It is where we spend a huge portion of our lives and interact with others on a daily basis.

Warning Signs in the Workplace:

  • A co-worker who has been acting depressed in the workplace that now seems to be very happy
  • Someone who is acting more aggressive or stressed out than usual and you notice them lashing out at people
  • They comment about always being tired and you notice that they are more fatigued than usual
  • They make comments about being a burden to others and suggest that the world would be better off without them there
  • They don't show up for work as often or they are absent for periods of time
  • They are not being as productive as usual or seem very un-motivated (presenteeism)

So, what exactly do you do if you see these warning signs?

The Centre for Suicide Prevention recommends telling your coworker that you have noticed changes in their behaviour and that you are concerned about them. You should also directly ask them if they have been having thoughts of suicide and have resources ready to provide them with so they can get help.

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The more we address suicide in the workplace, the more we can reduce the stigma. No one should have to feel alone and that their only option is to die by suicide.

For more information and resources be sure to visit the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s website.  If it is a crisis and you need to talk to someone right away phone 1-833-456-4566.


The #MeToo Movement Needs To Happen in Low Wage Industries Too

To say the #MeToo movement has dominated conversations about the workplace over the last year would be a huge understatement.

It has brought down the careers of high-profile actors, producers, journalists and more.

But there is a problem with the movement. While we are celebrating the takedown of the Harvey Weinsteins and the bravery of the Rose McGowans out there, we are ignoring a huge part of the problem.

The ability to speak out.

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There are so many women in low wage jobs who experience harassment and are unable to speak out due to race, class and income mobility.

According to a recent study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment happens more frequently in industries dominated by low-wage workers. They found that half of the women working in the restaurant industry experienced “scary” or “unwanted” sexual behaviour. Another study found that 40 per cent of women working in the fast-food industry has experienced unwanted sexual behaviours on the job.

In the restaurant industry, where servers rely on tips, men and women have to put up with a lot.

"This reliance [on customers for tips] makes them vulnerable to having to endure sexual harassment, really, as the price to be paid for a tip,” explained Kaitlyn Matulewicz in an interview with CBC News. She is an organizer and researcher with the workers' rights advocacy organization

This can be made even worse for migrant workers, who often don’t have the ability to speak out against harassment.

Grace Vaccarelli is a human rights lawyer and pointed out in an interview with CBC News that ‘for migrant workers, confronting the boss can mean being sent back to their country of origin — and failing the family members back home who depend on their Canadian wages.’

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Basically, they are left silent.

"You're repatriated, you're kicked out. No employer's going to want you back, and the program may not want you, because you're a complainer."

When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that includes being free of sexual harassment in the workplace.