23 Jun At risk at work?
Over the last 4 months I have carried out 13 interviews and 125 people have answered the survey for my research on workplace support systems within the helping professions in Scotland called ‘Who’s Supporting the Supporters?’
A full report on the findings will be presented at a seminar later this year but here are some findings to get the conversation started:
39% of respondents have experienced a suicide within workplace, the majority of these suicides were service users and a few were colleagues.
Just over a quarter of respondents have themselves experienced suicidal thoughts whilst in their current employment.
Just over a quarter of respondents either couldn’t remember the last time they had supervision or only had it occasionally.
Some of those people I have spoken to have felt they have lacked any real meaningful support, some have been supported well, and some, have mixed feelings about the support they have received.
At times, I have felt my eyebrows rise as I have listened to individuals’ stories: employees facing challenging situations with very vulnerable people with no individual supervision, breaches of employee confidentiality within the workplace, staff becoming burnt out due to target-driven workloads.
I have also been heartened by some stories of managers that have a genuine sense of care for staff demonstrating leadership over management and the positive impact that this approach has on an individual and the team as a whole.
I am drawn back to my previous research and the findings in the report ‘Listen and You Might Learn’ of the need for empathy and understanding in any form of relationship, whether that be Worker-Service User or Supervisor-Worker. As one interviewee highlighted, the Supervisor/Manager should be modelling behaviour that they expect with the service users. Sadly, some of the employees did not feel their Line Supervisor had these skills.
Many of these employees are working with vulnerable people who may be at risk of suicide, but what happens when they do not have the support they need to do the work that is being asked of them?
And what kind of work environments are we creating where some employees either feel they do not have support they can rely on or they are fearful of talking about how they are really feeling?
“If I was suicidal, I would not turn to my work for support formally, for fear of consequences.”
Employee, Mental Health & Wellbeing, Third Sector
As service providers and employees within the helping professions we are trying to build a more stable, safe and supportive environment for people and communities, surely this includes those that work within the services as well?
This is only an opener into the informative and eye opening research I have been carrying out – please keep checking back for more updates.