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Due to a number of deeply distressing events and generally low quality of life (unrelated to job), I recently attempted to commit suicide during work hours, in my workplace.

If you're curious about how, I impulsively attempted to OD on an anti-depressant two hours before the end of the workday. By the end of the day symptoms started to show and my coworkers rushed me to a hospital, where some of them heard me tell the GP what I did.

Word carried to the head of HR, who demanded I tell him why I tried to kill myself. I told him something about having had great potential and ambition, but getting repeatedly thwarted by family and other personal circumstances (which is a good part of the truth).

Now HR is telling me that I'm not going to be fired, but only if they can have "good proof that you're not going to do it again"; how? they're demanding:

  1. medical report from the hospital
  2. to prepare a good, convincing emotionally deep speech on how I'm never going to do it again
  3. "proof" that I had potential\ambition and faced obstacles ...etc; basically my stated motivation for suicide.

As I see it, number 2 seems to be the only relevant item to the stated objective of being sure I won't do it again. Numbers 1 and 3 not only require divulging personal information at a seemingly inappropriate level, but the fact they're asking for this at all seems strange and suspicious, not to mention how hard coming up with paper proof for 3 is.

Why is HR asking for these things? Is there a reason I shouldn't concede even if I want to keep my job?

Edit: though I've used the word "speech" in the explanation above, it wasn't meant as a public speech, per se. It's just that it was clear that no conversation will be involved, and that I'm supposed to prepare what I'm going to say. Also, the medical report referenced above is the one from the OD incident, it doesn't involve any psychiatric intervention (though it is possible they assume otherwise).

Thanks you all for your help. I feel that I have a much better grip on the situation and what to do now.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Chat is a good medium for this though, so I've moved the conversation there - best of luck in your recovery process. – enderland May 18 '17 at 14:58
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    "Now HR is telling me that I'm not going to be fired, but only if they can have "good proof that you're not going to do it again" inhumane workplace. – bobo2000 May 30 '17 at 15:07
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    What are they going to do if you do it? Fire you? I find the HR's approach to this childish. – Catsunami Mar 29 '18 at 16:14
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The reason the company (HR) is demanding these things is because they're trying to cover their ass and ensure they don't get sued by you or, were you try to commit suicide again and succeed, by your heirs. So they're asking for:

  1. "medical report from the hospital" → to confirm what you've told them (that is, it was a suicide attempt and not, say, a recreational drug overdose)
  2. "to prepare a good, convincing emotionally deep speech on how I'm never going to do it again" → OK, this is a bit weird (do they really want you to give a public speech?), but obviously they're quite keen for you not to repeat this or have others try the same
  3. "basically my stated motivation for suicide" → in particular, to state in writing that the cause was your parents, personal circumstances (read: anything that's not the company's fault) and not the company, your boss, bullying etc.

If you want to keep your job, you'll need to play along. However, if the company is actually at fault and you are considering suing them, don't offer or sign anything before you've talked to a lawyer.

As an aside, it seems rather heartless for your company to threaten firing and issue demands instead of offering support through what's obviously a tough time for you, but the underlying motivation would be the same.

  • It's not really public. Just me, HR, manager. plus or minus 1 person. perhaps "speech" isn't the right word?."prepare yourself to talk at length, from the heart, and convince us you regret it and will never do it again" was the instruction, which sounds sillier every time I think about it. – Kazami May 15 '17 at 12:50
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    +1 - As unfortunate and heartless as it may be, this is a prime example of how HR is there to look after the company, not you. That said, I would definitely take the advice of putting your health before your work, and I sincerely hope you make a full recovery. – berry120 May 15 '17 at 16:58
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    Yes, that's what HR does, but in this case, in addition to litigation risks, they probably don't want to OP to use the opportunity to kill themselves, successfully, because they were blissfully ignorant of the situation. There is also concern for OP and the co-workers. It was probably a traumatic situation for the people, as individual human beings. Since this is probably way out of their depth, they want some kind of confirmation that any help that is vitally needed has been obtained. Since they are in over their heads, their attempts have a bit of a "flailing" and off-target feel to them. – PoloHoleSet May 15 '17 at 19:29
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In the circumstances, seeing a mental health professional seems like an action you should take irrespective of your employer's demands. When you find one, discuss with them (not necessarily as your top priority though), what the normal 'back to work' procedure in similar circumstances is in your country. They have been trained in how to discuss their patients with others without revealing unnecessary personal information, and if you can trust them to manage your case, you ought to be able to trust them to report on your case to people like your employer on a 'need to know' basis if it is required, i.e. to provide information that your employer requires and is entitled to without divulging anything else.

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    Thank you. This is a very good suggestion. I suppose if they are indeed trying to do what they state they're trying to do, they'll have to accept professional assessment (which is necessary in any case). – Kazami May 15 '17 at 9:35
  • I am curious about the down vote - OP says he finds answer useful, and I don't think asking a mental health practicioner for advice on how to proceed with a mental health question could be harmful or inappropriate. Care to explain reasoning? – Robert de Graaf May 16 '17 at 10:41
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If you want to keep your job, you'll need to play along.

Actually, I disagree. This accepted answer is mere speculation.

If you want to keep your job, you should consult legal counsel to see if you should play along. You should do this even if your employer had nothing to do with your suicide attempt.

http://www.calltherightattorney.com/2012/12/31/americans-with-disabilities-act-suicide-attempts/

Once you give them what they want, a potential release from liability, there is actually no guarantee that they'll keep their word and keep you on board. In fact, the only way they may be able to fire you, is to get that release of liability from you. Keep in mind that it may not even be their decision, but some other executive of the company.

No. For now, write nothing and sign nothing. If they want you to sign something, take it home with you to review it. You're very vulnerable right now. You feel super guilty. You're probably ready to sign anything they put in front of you. Don't.

Take a few days off (keep your communication channels open with them, or they'll be worried). Consult a psychiatrist/psychologist. After such an attempt, getting a doctor's referral and an appointment this week should be relatively easy. But also consult a lawyer (this part, you don't need to tell them about). I'm pretty sure that both the lawyer and the psychologist will tell you also that this information they're demanding (aside from the fact that you don't want to do it again and that you're seeking psychological counseling) is absolutely none of their business.

Furthermore, depending on the jurisdiction you're in, making your continued employment contingent on this breach of privacy, sounds highly illegal to me.

Do you drive for a living? Do you operate heavy machinery? Are other lives on the line where you work? If you're not a hazard to the company's equipment, or to others, firing you without a release of liability could be difficult for them anyway. That's why you should consult a lawyer. Obviously, I can't give you legal advice. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I even know in which jurisdiction you're in. This is all mere speculation on my part as well.

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    I upvoted you as an interesting alternative viewpoint, but the strategy you propose (lawyer up, don't cooperate) carries a real risk of burning bridges and getting the OP fired. – lambshaanxy May 16 '17 at 8:18
  • Ok, this caught me off guard. You are absolutely right, I'm mostly feeling guilty and ready to give them any release they want. It could well be that they're asking for this emotional promise that I'm never repeating it so that I'd trust that they intend to keep me and sign away. I can imagine them saying "sorry, you don't sound sincere, you're out" once they have their papers. – Kazami May 16 '17 at 16:07
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    In hindsight, my answer sounds more combative than necessary. If I find time, I'll edit it to make it less so. I didn't mean for the OP to become confrontational. Nor do I mean that he should lawyer up like you do when you're being interrogated by the police. I just meant that he should consult with a lawyer to find out what his rights are. And he certainly doesn't need to tell them that he consulted a lawyer. Also, I believe he should consult a psychologist (or a shrink) and not allow his boss or HR to take up that role for him. Any psychologist (or shrink) should back him up on that idea. – Stephan Branczyk May 19 '17 at 1:43
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Seems like a strange request, other than maybe the medical report... (You may consider it personal, but they are affected after all: you did it on their premises)

An emotional speech about how you're not going to do it again? Seems very strange... And proof of your motives? This is the strangest of all...

Would you and they be open to this as an alternative:

  • The medical report.
  • Proof that you have made appointments to seek psychiatric help. (They may request updates from the psychiatrist)
  • Some kind of signed statement that they were not responsible for the suicide attempt.

I'm surprised by the demanding tone, i.e. that they are not being a bit more helpful and supportive... Threatening to fire you after a suicide attempt?

  • Yes, the whole business seemed quite strange. But in light of what seems to be the agreement here about their motives, your alternatives sound ideal to me. I'll talk to them and see if they'll agree to this. Thank you. – Kazami May 15 '17 at 12:42
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Look at it like this. Your actions to date endangered you, and likely traumatized your office mates. So the BIG picture for your employer is not in just examining what you might do, but how it affects everything going on in the office.

If you harm yourself on the premises, in front of others, they're going to need outlets to deal with the situation too - which probably has to happen during hours they'd normally be working. I have no right to judge you per se, but some people who attempt suicide are actually more interested in attention than remediation; and your company is making sure that you're not part of the former group -- as ultimately, it will affect productivity. It would be unsound to trash the business behind anyone's selfish act, so they need to flush this situation out.

  • +1 from me. While OP needs to sort out the stuff the company requests from him (and get help for his health!) he also should try to understand its not very common that your work colleague tries to kill himself in front of you. This will let them feel like they did something wrong and that they couldn't help. I would feel bad if someone commited suicide in front of me and I couldn't do anything. – Swizzler May 16 '17 at 17:09
  • Are you saying they may want documented proof that I have a reason to be in poor mental health to make sure I didn't do it for attention? – Kazami May 16 '17 at 17:15
  • @Kazami Yes, that. And to make sure that next time, you don't escalate and attempt it with an automatic weapon or something that will harm others. The incurred liability from such an event, given that you're at this point a known risk, would bury them. – Xavier J May 16 '17 at 20:16

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