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If you feel distressed or you’re at risk and need to speak to a mental health professional, please call your local mental health line or if in Australia visit here for resources and contacts.

The Damaging Effects Of Psychological Abuse In The Work Place

Journal, Mental Health, Workplace

The worst things about emotional, and mental abuse (also known as psychological abuse) within the workplace is that:

  1. Sometimes you don’t know It’s happening until you leave the environment
  2. When you are aware and decide to stick up for yourself, It’s often too late for change.
  3. The long-term effects can be so damaging, but to stay at the expense of your mental health is often perceived to be the easier choice as opposed to leaving and risking a career and financial security that took years to create.

Mental health is a state of wellbeing that allows people to realise their potential while coping with the ordinary challenges of life – Work Safe Australia

We all experience varying levels of mental health during our lives.

Work Safe Australia states, Good mental health supports people to thrive in their life, work and relationships with others. Meanwhile, mental ill-health can negatively impact these parts of our lives in a significant way. And psychological injuries are a very real and serious issue in our country today, costing companies and employers billions each year, so is it not being taken more seriously. Like, really. We all know the facts and with the increased amount of awareness and recommendations made by Organisations and Government bodies, why are we not doing more to tackle these issues at its core.

Employees are encouraged to speak up if they experience any risk to injury but the reality is most cases go un reported due to the stigma and fear of the consequences if they were to speak up, such as further bullying or in my case being bullied to resign and be made to cover up the story if any of the team asked why I was leaving. I was essentially cast out and shut out.

There are seminars and other campaigns that raise awareness but unfortunately the system in which we’re in is such that there is not a lot of support for employees. Yes, there are policy templates to use, recommended psychological hazard procedures, maybe a HR manager (who let’s be honest aren’t really going to do anything if it means confronting the boss, the one who pay their bills) and it all looks good on paper, but let’s be real; unless upper management want to change, nothing will improve ..

It’s easy to give up, because what can you do? You cannot force your employer to have a reasonable conversation with you and you cannot stop them from shutting you down when you try to stand up for yourself. There is also no consequence for employers unfortunately, unless you have the resources to find the right legal support so why waste your energy.

It is much easier to stay, let your mental health suffer and put up with it then it is to leave. That is why chronic stress is at an all time high and we all know chronic stress is one of the root causes of many illnesses. Very few workplaces I know have successfully and genuinely been able to implement effective strategies to combat this and put their employees mental health first. It’s really easy to put strategies on paper, write a few social media posts about the importance of mental health but to put it in practice, It can be a different story. An ironic one that doesn’t end well. When I was bullied, so severely by my boss I left the office in tears, the next week the same bully wrote a “R U OK DAY” post about how important employees mental health is *rolls eyes*.

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety in the workplace

Safe Work Australia

You might not be able to control what is happening to you, but you can control how you handle your situation so you can  move upward and onwards, knowing you have done the right thing. In the moment, you are blaming yourself and it feels like it is your fault. That is the difference between you and your bully, your bully will never ever think it is their fault or take accountability or responsibility for their actions. They would much rather blame their high turn over to the “instability” of their employees. This is when you know you are the better person because at least you are open to hearing how you can improve if there is anything you can work on. Your bully can’t come up with anything so they make up all kinds of excuses and reasons to crush you. This kind of gaslighting can really mess you up. I know. I get it. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it and the truth is, they can get away with it because the systems and culture has been created to support them and them alone. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times. It’s a shame these bullies are too self involved and although there is no direct consequence for them, remember it only reflects poorly on them and not on you. And trust me, it eventually catches up to them in one way or another.

Throughout my career, I’ve experienced and witnessed first hand emotional and mental abuse within the workplace severely, and repeatedly. It is one of the reasons, I previously set out to have my own business, as a remedial massage therapist and later when I freelanced in marketing and copywriting. It became so bad at one point, I was convinced I was the problem and I sought out a psychologist and begged her to tell me what was wrong with me, and why I kept attracting similar situations. Like someone who always ends up in an abusive relationship – there wasn’t anything wrong with me, but I did need to learn a few things that would help protect me emotionally and mentally, like boundaries and learning to be more assertive in what was okay and not, for me instead of always trying to please others…

With time, I discovered the same thing was happening to several other people which was the evidence I needed to convince myself it wasn’t me. It also made me realise how frequently this type of abuse occurs, and it makes me sick how often it happens especially in the helping professions. 

Click here to continue the story in Part 2, How I Survived Psychological Abuse In The Work Place; about how I managed to find help and take the steps to move forward and find peace from the damaging effect of psychological abuse I had experience.

Tess Philip

Tess Philip

Tess founded Well Creative Minds to merge her passions for creativity, wellbeing and mental health and share real stories of courage and hope. She is a mental health support worker, psychology student and writer.

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