||Issue No. 196||19 September 2003|
A Secret Country
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
Workplace Bullies Leave Three Dead
Psychologist Meddwyn Coleman told a forum organised by the Bendigo Trades Hall Council on September 17 that workplace bullying lay behind the suicide deaths of three Victorian workers.
Victims of bullying in NSW have also said that they too would have taken their lives had they not found support and assistance.
The recent Public Service Association of New South Wales Women's Conference also addressed the issue, with the PSA now conducting training sessions on bullying, which is increasingly recognised as a big OHS problem.
"These training sessions are booked out within days of getting up,' says Jo Tilly, Women's Industrial Officer with the PSA. "Bullying has become one of the biggest OHS issues in the workplace."
A survey of PSA members in 2000 revealed that bullying had a substantial impact on people's lives.
Psychologist Meddwyn Coleman told a forum organised by the Bendigo Trades Hall Council on September 17 that bullying was the deliberate psychological, emotional or physical harassment of an individual.
Coleman, with 25 years experience in counselling victims, outlined the tragic consequences of bullying.
For the first time in 25 years she is starting to see suicides that are related to workplace bullying.
In one instance an apprentice became seriously depressed following repeated 'hazing' or initiation rituals that made him look like an idiot and set him up to fail. Eventually he took his own life. The tragedy was compounded when his sister also took her life because of his death.
On top of suicides related to bullying lives have also been shattered.
Joy, a Victorian nurse, was bullied to the point that she suffered from depression. Bullying eventually stopped her from leaving her home, filing a legitimate WorkCover claim for an injured back and even saw her forced to do personal work such as sewing for her antagonist. Joy was isolated from other workers who were "turned against her" by the bully - a supervisor in a health related field. Even after five years she cannot visit the town where she worked and experienced bullying.
Joy is now recovering from her ordeal but still finds the experience difficult.
"I was used and abused,' says Joy. "It's unbelievable what people are like."
Peggy Johnson from the Lidcombe Workers' Health Centre told Workers Online that seven years ago the centre received about one call a month on this issue, now they were receiving one or two calls a week.
The Lidcombe Workers' Health Centre has started an eight-week pilot Bullying Support Group program to help people deal with this dangerous workplace hazard.
"All the people I have seen are invariably relieved that they have found a person who believes or listens to them." Says Johnson.
"It's not as clear cut as other issues,' says Jo Tilly from the PSA, who pointed out that bullying wasn't always an 'obvious' problem.
Coleman said that while bullying was not always just a "top-down" phenomenon it had increased with the embracing of "economic rationalism as the dominant ideology".
Bullying can have terrible consequences for the victims, who may blame themselves, when the real problem lies with the Bully.
"The root of bullying behaviour is often insecurity and personal envy of the targeted victim," Coleman told the Bendigo Trades Hall Forum. Coleman advised bullying victims to not try to cope with the situation alone.
The NSW Labour Council is working towards developing a campaign to address the issue of bullying in the workplace.
A number of people working to address bullying stated that lack of job security, competition for dwindling positions and unrealistic workloads that accompanied job cutbacks appeared to exacerbate bullying in the workplace.
If you or someone you know is considering or affected by suicide please call Lifeline on 13 11 14
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