On January 8th, 2024, news broke that the body of a young Nigerian banker was found in the toilet of the bank where she worked. She had committed suicide by drinking a poisonous drink. She said *”my figure are low”* . We do not know what the implications were for not meeting her sales targets! Possibly, her employment was threatened due to the low figures. Combining this with rumours of a failed engagement, and hardship, may have made the situation mentally and emotionally overwhelming for her.

 

Workplace suicide is not a new occurrence. On March 24, 2015, news broke that a young co- pilot for Lufthansa’s low cost-airline Germanwings had intentionally crashed a passenger jet into the French Alps, killing himself, 144 passengers and 5 other crew members. The young co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies kept this information from his employer and reported for work. Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, whilst the captain was out of the cockpit, he locked the cockpit door and initiated a controlled descent until the aircraft collided with a mountainside. Lubitz was not suffering from a physical ailment when he plunged that aircraft, it was a mental health issue. Investigations revealed he had been suffering from depression. One member of an organisation had a mental health issue, but many paid dearly for it.

Organizations tend to focus on physical health much more than they have on mental health. In some ways, it makes sense that mental health issues are overlooked because physical conditions are visible to the naked eye. Mental health conditions aren’t so readily identifiable, but they are as damaging, if not more so. Employee mental wellbeing ought to be mainstream in a post covid and VUCA workplace. Discussions on workplace wellbeing and mental health can no longer be exercises in futility. They should be the weightier matters and should be a core part of HR concerns

Suicide ideation is the thought process of having ideas about ending one’s life and would most often precede suicide. I believe therefore that if organisations normalise discussions on workplace mental health and address issues around it directly and persistently, employees will be encouraged to seek support when they feel the need to. Additionally, organisations need to strengthen Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), to adequately provide the essentials needed to support employees. Line managers now have an expanded role, they would need to be trained with skills needed to recognize when a member of the team is struggling and respond appropriately. Leadership at all levels must model a responsive and inclusive culture through their communications and day to day actions.

 

Employee wellbeing must remain core in the priorities of HR as there are serious implications for not just organisational performance but also for the safety of every member of the organisation. When one employee is mentally or emotionally challenged, everyone connected  to  the  organization  may  be  at  risk  in  one  way  or  the  other.

 

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