Most jobs come with a high amount of stress, but for workers in the nearly 200 Amazon fulfillment centres in the United States, it appears that the demands of the job are leading many employees to suffer from mental health issues. In a new report conducted by The Daily Beast, between October 2013 and October 2018, there were at least 189 calls made to 911 from Amazon warehouses to report “suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes.”
The Daily Beast compiled reports from 46 warehouses across 17 states, which represents approximately one quarter of the fulfillment centres the company operates in the US. The number of calls to 911 over mental health concerns on average were not greater than employees of other companies or those working in different industries, but The Daily Beast says that they believe the findings do point towards an issue with unrealistic demands put on Amazon workers.
The cases shared by The Daily Beast paint a disturbing image, with one example including a woman in Jacksonville, Florida, who threatened to kill herself after she was fired, telling her supervisor she “did not have anything to live for.”
Jace Crouch worked for Amazon in Lakeland, Florida and told The Daily Beast, “It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” saying working in a fulfillment facility is “mentally taxing to do the same task super-fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”
Some of the employees interviewed said they previously suffered from mental health issues but believed that working at Amazon exacerbated their condition.
Amazon has previously faced accusations of poor working conditions. Journalists James Bloodworth went undercover in an Amazon warehouse in the UK and reported that workers were urinating into bottles to avoid taking bathroom breaks, which Bloodworth said often resulted in employees receiving “warning points” for arriving late from their break. Amazon denied Bloodworth’s account, saying that “Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”
Employees put under the stress of quotas and minimums who already suffer from mental health issues can be the perfect storm, leading to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. With Amazon’s position as one of the biggest companies in the world, reports of 911 calls from warehouse centres are an opportunity for the company to change their work culture and begin implementing new safeguards and procedures to ensure that employees are receiving the support they need to complete their tasks in a way that is beneficial to both the company and the employee.
With great power comes great responsibility. Let’s hope these reports are the start of Amazon becoming a world leader in showing how big companies can chase profits without sacrificing the health of their employees.