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Bullying linked to suicidal thoughts

June 03, 2016

This week saw the National Retail Association facilitate two mental health workshops to help our members identify and manage mental health issues in the workplace.

New Australian research has identified that workplace bullying and harassment increases the likelihood of a worker developing suicidal thoughts. These results highlight a growing need for organisational intervention to address mental health issues in the workplace.

A survey of 932 people from various occupations in Australia, found thoughts of suicide occurred more frequently in participants who were bullied or harassed in the workplace. These same individuals scored higher on tests for psychological distress than their fellow workers.

The research discovered a greater proportion of participants with “suicide ideation”, commonly referred to as suicidal thoughts, were employed in medium to low skilled occupations than their peers in high skilled jobs.

There was also a potential link to marital status. Of the participants who did not experience suicidal thoughts, 56% were identified as married, compared with 25.23% of participants who reported suicidal thoughts and were married.

The survey also found there was a similar distribution of gender and age among participants who did and did not experience suicidal thoughts. That being said, females were found to be more likely to report bullying than males, a fact which employers should be aware of when planning to deal with bullying in the workplace.

Research revealed that low supervisor support, low job control, high demands, high strain and high job insecurity were the main predictors of bullying. These strains and demands have been found to increase competitiveness, stress and interpersonal conflict.

These findings reinforced previous research that identified that organisational changes, power imbalances, role conflict and ambiguity, and internal competition are factors that may lead to bullying in the workplace.

Employers need to be aware of bullying in the workplace and how it can affect its employees. Effective workplace bullying initiatives should emphasise intervention measures at an organisational level, rather than just at an individual level, and should focus on the environmental and structural factors which are known to predict bullying.

As an employer, you owe it to your employees that your business is free of bullying. This goes beyond a moral obligation. Legally, employers are required to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Implementing effective bullying policy and active initiatives will reduce your risks as a business and may save lives.

Call the NRA today on 1800 RETAIL (738 245) to discuss initiatives and policies you can put in place to protect your workers and your business.

Dominique Lamb, Director NRA Legal

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