Work-related stress and depression kills

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K Veeriah urges the government to include mental health issues as a recognised occupational condition under the Social Security Act 1969.

The case of an employee driving his car into his company, allegedly hurling a Molotov cocktail into the company’s building, and later being killed walking across the road is not only tragic but also raises some pertinent issues for a discourse.

While we wish not to be prejudiced, we believe his actions cannot be isolated from workplace-related circumstances. From press reports, it seems the deceased was fired and/or suspended from his job.

From his own video posting, it can be gleaned that he was aggrieved by the company’s actions related to his suspension from work and the non-payment of bonus and increment. He, obviously, was under tremendous mental stress and maybe even depression, driving him to react with tragic consequences.

Though we, as a trade union organisation, would be inclined to conclude that the management had acted without regard to the requirements of equity and/or good conscience in suspending and/or terminating his employment, thus triggering his reactions, we also believe a thorough investigation ought to be left with the authorities.

Thinking aloud, we wonder if the police and Suhakam can conduct a separate inquest or inquiry as to whether there was any element of culpability or abuse of human rights in the matter, respectively. The Ministry of Human Resources has a moral obligation to engage in an investigation of its own in the case.

Regardless of such an inquest, inquiry or investigation, we believe this unfortunate case brings into focus the neglected issue of the mental health of workers especially so in cases of perceived breaches of terms of contract of employment. As we understand, the mental health of workers is a reality and not imaginary!

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Suspending or dismissing workers on the slightest notion of a breach of the employment contract inevitably brings about undue mental stress for the worker involved. Tragically, such a situation has led to the unwarranted death of the worker concerned.

Having regard to the circumstances of this case, we would appreciate it if the authorities would be empathetic to the issue of the mental health of workers in cases of disciplinary action or otherwise. Mental health, including depression caused thereof, has to be recognised as prevalent among the working population.

On this score, we would urge the government to include mental health issues as a recognised occupational condition under the Social Security Act 1969.

K Veeriah is the secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress

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