Warning: this article contains descriptions of suicidal threats.
A harrowing investigation by the Daily Beast has revealed dozens of calls made by Amazon warehouses in the past five years to emergency services about employees on the brink of suicide.
The researchers found that between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were summoned to Amazon warehouses in the US at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health episodes, according to 911 call logs, ambulance and police reports.
“I have a suicidal employee in one of our offices, he attempted to cut himself three or four times tonight,” said one such emergency call.
“I have an associate who had written a suicide letter to her children that was discovered on her today,” another read.
At a warehouse in Etna, Ohio, a young man said, “With all the demands his employer has placed on him and things he's dealing with in life [sic] is becoming too much and considering hurting himself,” a sheriff’s report says.
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The worker has been “with Amazon for over a year and is frustrated with his employment because he felt he was lied to by Amazon at his orientation. He keeps saying the company told him they valued his employment and would be treated as if he mattered and not just a number,” the report added.
Amazon, which was founded by the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, has long faced criticism for its treatment of warehouse workers. Last year Business Insider spoke with over thirty current or recently employed drivers about their experience of working with the retail giant.
One worker, Zachariah Vargus, told the publication that six hours into his delivery shift he accidentally slammed the doors onto his fingers. He recalled the wound being so bad that he thought he caught a glimpse of bone beneath the blood.
Despite highlighting the injury with his supervisor, he was told to continue delivering the packages before returning to the depot to seek medical treatment.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Amazon said it values the health of its employees and suggested that the number of calls is an “overgeneralisation” that “doesn’t take into account the total of our associate population, hours worked, or our growing network.” The statement said:
“The physical and mental well-being of our associates is our top priority, and we are proud of both our efforts and overall success in this area.”
“We provide comprehensive medical care starting on day one so employees have access to the care when they need it most, 24-hour a day free and confidential counselling services, and various leave and medical accommodation options covering both mental and physical health concerns.”
Recent research from recruitment experts Robert Walters has found that over three quarters (76%) of professionals believe employees at their place of work would be uncomfortable discussing mental health challenges – largely due to fear of being stigmatised and singled out.
Chris Hickey, UK CEO of Robert Walters, said that just six per cent of hiring managers specifically recruit staff with expertise in mental health, and of these less than ten per cent feel that their skills are being used as effectively as possible.
“In addition to reviewing the recruitment process in order to seek professionals with specific skills and experience of dealing with mental health barriers in the workplace, employers should review their current workforce to identify staff who already possess expertise in the field and help to train them up,” he said.