Workplace suicide has become an urgent social concern internationally with rising numbers of employees choosing to kill themselves in the face of extreme pressures at work. Yet, research on this phenomenon is hampered by fragmentary statistical data and the sheer contentiousness of this issue. This paper presents the preliminary findings of a research project on workplace suicides in France, where there has been a ‘suicide epidemic’ across a wide range of companies. I draw on an analysis of suicide letters linked to 23 suicide cases across three French companies during the period 2005–2015. My methodological approach is informed by the work of suicide sociologist, Jack D Douglas, who emphasised the importance of narrative, testimony and voice to our understanding of the causes of suicide. Douglas argued that an analysis of the ‘social meanings’ of suicide should start with a consideration of the motivations attributed to self-killing by suicidal individuals themselves and those close to them. Why does work or conditions of work push some individuals to take their own lives? What can the ‘suicide voices’ articulated in recent testimonies tell us about the causes of workplace suicide? In this paper, I treat suicide letters as a unique mode of testimony that can reveal some of the profound effects of workplace transformations on subjective, intimate and lived experiences of work. By examining French suicide testimonies, my aim is to deepen our understanding of the nature and causes of suicide in today's globalised workplaces.
- Occupational health
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