Regardless of which side of the gun control debate we’re on, we can agree on one thing: at the root of mass shootings is either mental illness, abuse, or both.
February 14, 2018
“[Attorney Jim] Lewis said Cruz was a loner and ‘a little quirky,’ and the family hosting him knew there had been some disciplinary problems and fights, but Cruz had never expressed any discontent toward his former teachers or classmates. ‘He was a smaller kid and (there’s) some indication there might have been some bullying going on….’ the lawyer said.”
— Eliott C. McLaughlin and Madison Park, CNN
June 12, 2016
“Brice Miller went to Southport Middle School and St. Lucie West Centennial High School with Mateen and described him as non-violent. He also said Mateen was bullied. ‘You could tell it hurt his feelings,’ Miller said, ‘but he would laugh it off…. He was just dorky…. He was disliked, but he always tried to get you to laugh.”
— Rene Stutzman and Jessica Inman, Orlando Sentinel
December 14, 2012
“Adam Lanza was apparently bullied and beaten when he was enrolled at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where he shot and killed 20 students and six staffers, the New York Daily News reports.…”
— Andrew Averill, The Christian Science Monitor
April 16, 2007
“Long before he killed 32 people in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Seung-Hui Cho was bullied by fellow high school students who mocked his shyness and the strange way he talked, former classmates said.”
— NBC News
Bulling leads to isolation
We know bullying often leads to isolation. Here’s a bully’s typical recipe:
- The bully initially repeatedly reprimands the better than average target for trivial matters and those that would be described completely differently by the target. The bully repeatedly puts the target down.
- The bully convinces others that the target is incompetent, so others can begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse.
- The bully drives the target to go to report the problem to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources and then escalates the bully behavior.
- The bully makes their tactics so outrageous that the target’s support system (family and friends) doesn’t believe the target and can’t offer advice. Then these family and friends become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved.
- The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide. Targets try everything and then give up hope. If not stopped, the prolonged abuse causes depression and often suicidal thoughts. “Targets who sense that they’re about to be fired and cannot cope with that eventuality are vulnerable to suicide,” adds reporter Natasha Wallace in her article “Suicide, When Related to Workplace Bullying.”
The connection to workplaces
We can see the direct connection between bullying and violence (both homicide and suicide). The Center for Disease Control classified workplace violence as a national epidemic, and in the late 90s, the U.S. Department of Justice called the workplace “the most dangerous place to be in America.”
- In the U.S., an average of 15 to 20 people are murdered weekly while at work (according to Andrew Faas in The Bully’s Trap).
- Homicide in the workplace is the fastest-growing form of murder (U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).
- One million people are physically assaulted in the workplace every year. That number increases when verbal violence is factored (according to Faas).
If we as a culture take a serious look at bullying, we can reduce incidences of violence. When will enough be enough?
Psychological abuse is violence. Kathleen Bonczyk, Esq. invited us to her Workplace Violence Prevention Institute’s annual Workplace Violence Conference, held yesterday in southern New Jersey, to speak about what we’re doing in Massachusetts to stop the psychological violence at work that can lead to physical violence.
We spoke with a room full of folks across disciplines interested in bringing life back to the Healthy Workplace Bill in New Jersey. Here’s what we shared:
- How we’re spreading the word in Massachusetts and nationally about workplace bullying, including what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in our marketing strategy
- Our targeted phonebanking campaign
- A healthy mindset for the long haul
A forensic psychologist, lawyer, and security consultant spoke about other angles of the issue.