Workplace Violence and the Effects on Mental Health

Violence in the workplace and mental health

Violence can happen anywhere. Over the last few years, we’ve seen that no place – homes, schools, churches, and even workplaces are locations where violence can become suddenly deadly. Workplace mental health may be a component of this. If there is violence in the workplace or high stressors, it can lead to risks to every employee there. At the same time, violence affects mental health, straining individuals who otherwise are unable to cope with the stress.

Is Workplace Violence Common?

Workplace incidents - how many died in It may surprise many just how common violence in the workplace is. According to the National Safety Council, violence is the third leading cause of death in some jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 16 percent of the 4821 people who died in workplace incidents in 2014 did so because of some type of work-related attack.

The deadliest events involve an active shooter in the workplace, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. However, there are other causes as well including co-worker related incidents and personal relationship problems. In some careers, such as healthcare, the patients themselves are a significant cause of work-related injuries and violence.

Workplace violence happens. And, there are a variety of ways employers can work to limit it. In some situations, it is very important for individuals to understand the toll of that violence in the workplace on overall mental health. Individuals who face violence on a day to day basis are at a high level of risk for developing mental health concerns.

How Violence Affects Mental Health

Violence is a type of traumatic event. It does not matter if it occurs just one time or happens repeatedly. Because violence can create such a jarring effect on the well-being of any individual, it can trigger mental health situations in many men and women. Individuals who are predisposed for mental health conditions, such as those who have a genetic link to it, are at an increased risk of suffering from the negative impact of workplace violence.

When a person witnesses or is involved in a violent act, it creates a change in the brain’s chemistry. Without proper treatment and support, any individual anywhere who is in this type of situation can develop mental health concerns.

Consider Women and Men and Traumatic Events

Common causes of PTSD - listAbout half of all women who suffer from some type of mental illness – such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder – have been exposed to physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Domestic abuse is commonly associated with the development of mental health concerns. However, those same types of situations can play out in the workplace as well.

Consider a few examples:

  • A woman suffers an injury from an angry customer. A person threatens her, pushes her, and perhaps causes severe injury.
  • Two coworkers get into an argument with each other. It escalates to physical violence. Someone uses a knife on the other party.
  • An individual is repeatedly exposed to violence and verbal abuse throughout his or her career. Over the span of years, this wears down the individual, creating mental health concerns.
  • A person walks into a workplace. He is a former employee angry about losing a job. He uses a gun to shoot the manager.
  • A person comes into the hospital emergency room in a violent rage. That individual lunges at and hurts a nurse.

In these situations, the individual is faced with not just the events of that single day, but also the long-term impact of that violence. In every situation, the way a person is involved in, handles and works through the exposure to violence impacts his or her ability to protect mental health. In most situations, violent acts like this create lasting memories that are hard to stop seeing and experiencing.

What Are the Mental Health Effects of Violence in the Workplace?

Individuals who experience emotional, physical, or sexual assault, or any type of other violent actions, are at an increased risk of developing a wide range of mental health problems. If you are facing this type of exposure, you may be dealing with a wide range of emotions.

  • You feel guilt over what happened.
  • You are struggling with feelings of being numb, almost feeling as though the world feels different.
  • Some people feel shame over what occurred.

No matter what happened, you may feel personally hurt by it. Abusive situations and single instances of violence make individuals see the world in a different light. Sometimes it is not possible to rationalize it, and in other cases, it creates changes in the way you think and experience life around you.

This leads to long-term mental health challenges. Every person’s experiences are a bit different, but they may include:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Mental illness effects - dangers of self medicatingThis is perhaps the most common of all instances of mental health effects from violence. Violence in the workplace has a similar impact as violence on a battlefield or in a shooting scenario. PTSD occurs when someone experiences traumatic, shocking, and scary situations often with those instances leading to harm or a person fearing for his or her life. Negative thoughts develop. You replay what happened over and over again in your mind.


Some individuals experience the effects of violence at work through anxiety. You struggle with the thought of going to work. Even if the threat is no longer there, you still feel anxious, worried, and nervous about experiencing it. Panic attacks occur. This often involves a sudden fear of impact from the events of the past.


For those predisposed to depression, any type of violence in the workplace can trigger the onset or the worsening of symptoms. Depression makes you feel unable to live, unable to cope, and unwilling to keep going through your day. It can be nearly impossible to stop the negative thoughts. Depression is a serious health condition requiring medical help.

Coping Mechanisms

It is also important to point out that many men and women who struggle with mental health as a result of workplace violence look for ways to treat it outside of therapy. You may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of soothing your worries and overcoming your loss. Some people enter into deep depression and addiction as a result of the instances that have occurred to them. Other people draw into themselves and pull away from social settings. Still, others struggle with their job and develop problems within other relationships they have. In nearly all cases, individuals who do not treat the mental health concerns they experience can suffer long-term damage. It does not just go away without some type of therapy and support.

Getting Workplace Mental Health Support

Workplace mental health is critical for employers to monitor. Even in the most well-established and respected area, though, there is the risk for trauma and violence to occur. When it does, it requires careful attention and treatment. Individuals struggling with this type of scenario should seek out mental health rehab. Solutions are available that can help you to get back to your life again.

Speak to our team at FHE Health to learn more about mental health rehab. No matter what you have been through, there are options to improving your wellbeing and going forward.

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