September 22nd, 2015

Workplace Bullying May Increase Risk of Suicidal Thoughts


Workplace Bullying May Increase Risk of Suicidal Thoughts
By Lisa Rapaport, Reuters News Service, Sept. 17, 2015

(Reuters Health) – Workers who are victims of bullying on the job may become more likely to contemplate suicide than people who don’t experience a hostile office environment, a Norwegian study suggests.

Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 1850 workers and followed them from 2005 to 2010. While less than five percent of participants reported thoughts of suicide during the study period, they were about twice as likely to do so after being victims of workplace bullying.

“Our study adds to the understanding of how bullying is related to thoughts about suicide by showing that the perception of being bullied at work actually is a precursor of suicidal ideation and not a consequence,” said lead study author Morten Birkeland Nielsen of the National Institute of Occupational Health and the University of Bergen.

At least 800,000 people worldwide take their own lives each year, making suicide a leading cause of death, Nielsen and colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health.

Although psychiatric disorders are involved in the majority of suicide attempts, most people with mental health disorders don’t take their own lives, the researchers note.

The relationship between bullying and suicidal thoughts is something of a “chicken and egg” problem, Nielsen told Reuters Health by email. It’s difficult to determine which comes first.

In an effort to solve this riddle, Nielsen and colleagues surveyed workers in 2005, 2007 and 2010, asking about their work environment and mental health.

Researchers defined three main characteristics of workplace bullying: an employee must be the target of systematic unwanted social behavior; the exposure must occur over a prolonged period of time, often with increasing frequency and intensity; and targets feel they can’t escape the situation or stop unwanted treatment.

Over the course of the study, the average proportion of workers reporting bullying ranged from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent, while the prevalence of suicidal thoughts varied from 3.9 percent to 4.9 percent.

There were no major differences in reports of bullying or suicidal thoughts based on workers’ gender or age.

While people who reported bullying early in the study were more likely to later report suicidal thoughts, the reverse didn’t prove true. Workers who said they had contemplated suicide at the beginning of the study were no more likely to later report bullying than participants who had never considered killing themselves.

One limitation of the study is its reliance on participants to accurately recall and report any exposure to bullying or thoughts of suicide, the authors acknowledge.

“There are probably some workers who are more likely to consider suicide due to specific predispositions, whereas others are more likely to consider suicide due to their recent exposure to bullying,” Nielsen said.

With prolonged exposure to bullying and other forms of distress, changes in the brain can occur, said Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute based outside Boise, Idaho. The brain can become flooded with glucocorticoids, commonly called stress hormones, which reduce capacity for clear, rational thinking, Namie, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

For at least some people, workplace bullying might be a tipping point toward considering suicide that mental health professionals may overlook, focusing instead on family or financial problems, Namie added.

The study findings suggest that the office problems merit a more serious look.

“Being bullied is one cause of thinking about taking one’s life,” Namie said. “Being bullied led to suicidal ideation and not the opposite – this is important for that reason.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, online September 17, 2015.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 at 9:42 am and is filed under Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI in the News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. Darlene Carter says:

    I’m an RN, I resigned unwillingly Sept.18 from the Veterans Affair. Its difficult for me to determine if I was experiencing bullying, harassment and or discrimination but the end result an attempt to end my life July, 30th,2015, spending 12 days in the hospital. I was diagnosed with PTSD and medicated for nightmares while hospitalized. I’m or I was a well functioning Bipolar II. I endured (from a newly arrived nurse manager, moreover the was not my manager) bullying/harassment for 14months,mid Jan 2014-Mar 2015 and on March 26th 2015 – June 17th she and another official came at me with a vengeance. On June 16th 2015, around 4:30 pm after entering human resources and reading false accusations, a co-workers description of me and a sticky on top of the charges “AL, can we ask for fitness of duty, reprimand or suspension”(I had no write-ups prior to these false charges) I started crying, I was devastated, shocked. I have no memory of leaving the HR office, driving into work the next morning, my next memory was approx. 12:45-2:30pm my work schedule 8-8pm. In stead of management or co-workers looking for me or being concerned, they accused me for patient abandonment from 12n-2pm and escorted me off the unit. On July 20th after reading the fact findings of the charges against me, I called Tiffany with EAP my councilor, because I knew she could clear my name. I whaled as I heard her tell me, “Darlene you called at 11am. again at 12n.” There are no words to describe what I was feeling, I paced, cried, cried, could not eat, sleep and on the July 30th, I gave up. The pain, fear, was unbearable. On the day of discharge from the hospital, I was in group and my councilor states” well Darlene, you’ve got some family issues to work on, I had no idea what he talking about. The councilor says my brother called asking them to block my moms number and to stop allowing me to use the phone (day 4 of admit), my brother accused me of verbal abuse on my mom!!!! I do not remember doing this, my nurse then informs me, on the day if my discharge, says, after 5 days of admission I ask this nurse “how can you give me medicines if you don’t know me” this nurse was acknowledging my concerns of memory loss. I can’t believe or comprehend these unfathomable events, I’m lost.How can this all be happening. I suffered/suffer fear, anxiety, terror, pain , uselessness, worthlessness, umpending doom, shame and guilt!!!!!!. My livelihood was taken from me, I’m in the first stage of foreclose of my home, I can’t find a job due to, no reference, attempting suicide. I live in severe fear so much so, I tie ropes from one door handle to the other so no one can come through the other bedrooms , I then wind the rope around my bed post as a brace to each bathroom doors, finally I tie off the double doors to my bedroom. I literally have to go under the rope to get in bed. HOW IN GODS NAME CAN ONE WOMAN HAVE THIS MUCH POWER. This woman was able to turn my co-workser of 8 years from me, I was shunned daily, I don’t know what this woman said to the other official because she and I were friends prior to March 26th 2015 but she came at me with such rage. My life I had and who I was, has disappeared. I’m numb, I live in disbelief and there are times I want to give up, there are times I’m afraid I may hurt myself, but do it right this time, my heart is broken, I’m broken. I can’t be treated for the PTSD, no insurance. HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING, I DON’T UNDERSTAND?!!!
    While in the hospital my sister came into my house and took what she wanted and made a huge mess and drove my car wherever she wanted, I’ve sold everything in my house except my bedroom and tv, my brother steals $500, scavengers removing and stealing my landscaping, so much so, they ask if they can dig up my trees. After being released from the hospital Aug.12, my brother has come to see me 2’x, my dad has not called nor come to see me. I’ve left my house >1mile twice. I’VE BEEN TREATED LIKE TRASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. MALINDA Hunter says:

    Please help. Lost twin from work place bullying. I was bullied too and pushed out from my job. We paid for an attorney, (sisters paid fee) and got no where. I need help

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