A new report from the Daily Beast has uncovered a multitude of 911 phone calls made from Amazon warehouses over suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes from employees.
The Daily Beast reports that between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were called to Amazon warehouses at least 189 times, in 46 warehouses in 17 states — roughly, the publication reports, a quarter of the sorting and fulfillment centers that comprises Amazon’s U.S. network.
During one such call, an employee in Jacksonville, Florida, said “she was going to go home and kill herself” because she was fired from her job. A supervisor had seen her crying and hitting her head against a wall, saying that she “did not have anything to live for.”
During another, an employee in Etna, Ohio, said that he was considering hurting himself due to “the demands his employer has placed on him” as well as things he was dealing with in his personal life. According to a sheriff’s report, the employee in question had been working for Amazon for over a year, and was frustrated because “he felt he was lied to by Amazon” when, during orientation, the company told him they “valued his employment and would be treated as if he mattered and not just a number.”
Some workers told Daily Beast that they struggled with mental-health issues before starting to work at Amazon, but said that they believed the work environment exacerbated those issues.
The Daily Beast notes that while the report’s findings aren’t evidence that Amazon staffers experience suicidal episodes more often than employees at other companies, they “offer a visceral, real-time glimpse of employees on the edge.”
Over the years, Amazon has been under fire for working conditions in its warehouses. An investigation from The Guardian last year suggested that in a multitude of cases, employees were left homeless, without money, or unable to work after they sustained accidents on the job. The company has also been accused of working conditions so hellish that employees have resorted to urinating in bottles, out of fear of taking bathroom breaks and missing their targets.
“It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” said Jace Crouch, a former employee who had an emotional crisis on the job.
Daily Beast spoke to six current or former Amazon employees who had mental-health crises that required emergency assistance at the warehouse, all of whom said that much of their work stress was due to the company’s performance quota.
“There was a constant sense of, ‘did I screw that up, did I screw that up, did I screw that up?” one person said. “[It] stays with you and almost becomes a permanent anxiety.”
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 “overgeneralization” that “doesn’t take into account the total of our associate population, hours worked, or our growing network.”
“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,” the statement said.
In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.