Criticized, ignored, intimidated, undermined, never recognized, stressed out? Could be bullying ... read this
Stress. It's on everyone's mind. Or rather their body. But what causes stress? If you've been sent on a stress management course, or its cheaper alternative, a stress awareness course, the chances are you'll have not learnt much about the causes of stress. You may know how to clench your buttocks then release as you breath out (hopefully not requiring a change of underwear), but the only way of dealing with stress is to identify the cause and then work to reduce or eliminate the cause. Despite the need for risk assessment and stress audits, many employers are coy about the causes of stress. Encouraging employees to endure prolonged negative stress - such as by forcing them to attend a stress management seminar - could be setting them up to sustain further injury to health and stress-related illness.
It's often not recognised that there are two types of stress: positive stress results from a well-managed workplace and can be harnessed to enhance performance, whilst negative stress - which results in stress-related illnesses and causes injury to health - results from a badly-managed workplace in which inadequate employees bully to hide their inadequacy. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress".
Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload or the unwelcome attentions of bullying co-workers and managers; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In June 2001 the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published new best-practice guidelines on how to minimise stress in the workplace. Under the guidelines, employers must:
Stress vies with back pain (also a symptom of stress) as the most common work-related illness, resulting in 6.5 million lost working days annually in the UK.
In November 1999, BUPA's Occupational Health Medical Director Dr Kevin Holland-Elliott, speaking at a World Health Organization sponsored conference on depression, stated his belief that companies are hiding the cost of stress from their shareholders as a way of preventing the causes of stress from being identified. Dr Holland-Elliott's went on to echo the HSE's Head of Health Directorate Dr Peter Graham, who stated in September 1998 that "Poor management is a major cause of stress". See BBC News Online.
In October 1999 Gee Publishing, authors of Absence, an Audit of Cost Reduction Methods (£129, 020 7393 7666), reported that stress has overtaken the common cold as the Number One reason for sickness absence. However, old attitudes such as stress being an excuse for skiving are still prevalent according to the British Safety Council. Around 20% of companies responding to a BSC survey did not treat stress as a health and safety issue. Highest rates of absence were in the public sector, utilities and health, reflecting a similar pattern to callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.
Time spent identifying and dealing with the causes of stress might cut the cost of stress management consultants and the like - as well as averting a stressful personal injury claim.
The 1999 CBI report put the cost of stress-related employee absence at between £530 per employee in small businesses and up to £545 in organisations of over 500 employees. The IPD puts the annual cost of job stress at around £7 billion.
In 1997 the 20 most stressful jobs were: Prison service, Police, Social Worker, Teaching, Ambulance, Nursing, Doctors, Fire brigade, Dentistry, Mining, Armed Forces, Construction, Management, Acting, Journalism, Linguist, Film producer, Professional sport, Catering and hotel, Public transport. Between 1985-1997 the jobs which showed major increases in stress were: Armed forces, Social work, Linguist, Teaching, Ambulance, Local government, Nursing, Occupational therapy, Biochemist, Farming, Youth and community worker, Water work, Radiographer, Brewing. All these job areas have produced calls to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line; the top four groups of Advice Line enquirers are: Teaching, Nursing and healthcare, Social work, Voluntary / charity / not-for-profit sector. After that comes Local government, Management, and Finance sector.
To see how stress - negative stress, that is - causes injury to health, including thoughts of suicide, click here. Prolonged negative stress can cause trauma with symptoms congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness. One symptom of psychiatric injury is reactive depression which leads to thoughts of suicide.
PTSD has been recognised since the sixth century BC, however, denial is still rampant. In World War 1, 306 allied soldiers were executed on the orders of General Haig for alleged "desertion" although most were exhibiting symptoms of PTSD.
Bully OnLine is a gold mine of insight and information on stress and reveals the main, but least recognised, cause of negative stress and exposes the main person causing that stress, the serial bully. Everyone, stressed or not, knows at least one person in their life with the profile of the serial bully. Click here to see who this reminds you of.
Browse this web site to recognize the effects - and causes - of stress in your life ... start with Am I being bullied? then move on to What is bullying and Why me? and answers to frequently asked questions. To find out what you can do about bullying, click Action to tackle bullying. Have a look at the profile of the serial bully which is common to harassers, stalkers, rapists, violent partners, abusers, pedophiles, even serial killers of the organized kind.
Court cases on stress-related injury are covered on the case law and settlements page.
The Stress Monitor provides free contact information to charity, voluntary and support groups in the UK.
Stress, injury to health, trauma and PTSD
How bullying, harassment and abuse damage health and cause trauma
Stress, trauma and PTSD Home Page
The cause of stress revealed
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Bullying shame | Bullying fear | Bullying embarrassment | Bullying guilt
Bullying and denial | Trauma | Shell shock: PTSD in WW1
David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury
validates and relieves the silent unseen suffering of trauma
Profile of David Kinchin | PTSD workshops by David Kinchin
Neil Marr and Tim Field's book Bullycide: death at playtime reveals the
secret toll of children who attempt or commit suicide because of bullying
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
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