Bullying in workplace 'can lead to suicide'
Bullying in the workplace can be a major contributing factor in suicide cases, the NSBSN conference heard.
Trinity College lecturer Ms Jacinta Kitt told delegates at the conference in Midleton, Co Cork, that employers are often blind to the devastating impact bullying has on its victims.
"In extreme cases bullying can lead to suicide. US research shows that in 20-25 per cent of suicides bullying was in the background. There is deep pain associated with bullying. Victims become withdrawn and alienated from their colleagues, friends and families. They lose the ability to enjoy life."
Ms Kitt, who has carried out research for the Anti-Bullying Centre in Trinity College, said emphasis is generally placed on the stereotypical "bullying boss" figure.
However, she said, colleagues could also be perpetrators of bullying, causing victims to be thrown into a downward spiral of self-loathing and self-doubt.
Employers were asked to take a more active role in preventing bullying.
"There is a persistent link between bullying and suicide - people who go down the road of being bullied are taking their own lives. Telling a bullied person to stand up to the bully is like telling a person with depression to snap out of it. Organisations have to come on board to prevent bullying on the job."
Trade unions such as SIPTU have spearheaded high-profile campaigns against workplace bullying. In a survey carried out by SIPTU, 87 per cent of respondents indicated they were aware of bullying taking place in their work environment.
Over 54 per cent of respondents considered young or inexperienced workers to be most vulnerable to bullying.
Some 74 per cent felt there was either a lack of, or only some, awareness of bullying behaviour in their workplace.
It is thought that only about onethird of workplaces have written policies on bullying.