Correctional Work: Reflections Regarding Suicide
The Public Health Agency of Canada declared suicide a public health problem in Canada (2016). Employees working in correctional services, researchers find, experience high rates of life-time suicidal ideation in comparison to other public safety professionals and the general population. Suicide behaviours (i.e., ideation, planning, attempts, death) are a multifactorial phenomenon, explained in part by the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide that suggests attempted suicide is facilitated by perceived burdensomeness, a lost sense of belonging, a feeling of hopelessness, and a progressively reduced fear of death, as well as capacity and planning to engage a lethal attempt. In the current study, we unpack the factors that can influence suicide behaviours as reported by correctional workers. Our intent is to make explicit the experiences of a small sample (n = 25) of correctional workers in relation to suicidal behaviours, highlighting stories of recovery and acknowledging the importance of facilitating psychologically safe workplaces. Analysis entailed an inductive semi-grounded emergent theme approach. Participants identified certain risk factors as being able to induce suicidal ideation, such as marital or family problems as well as difficulties at work (i.e., bullying or difficult working conditions). Having children and a partner may act as factors preventing suicide for those with ideation. Participants sought help from professionals, such as their family doctor, a psychologist, or the Employee Assistance Program (EAP); however, the lack of perceived organisational supports and recognition of the issue of suicide by the employer are two elements that can hinder the search for help.