April is recognized as Workplace Violence Awareness Month. Forbes recently published an article entitled, “Workplace Safety And Well-Being On The Decline In 2024, Study Shows.” The article highlighted findings from a new report from the company, Traliant, Fear Factors: A 2024 Employee Survey Report on Workplace Violence, Harassment and Mental Health. According to the report:

  • 1 in 4 people interviewed stated they have witnessed workplace violence happening to another employee in the last five years,
  • 12% said they had been the target of workplace violence themselves.
  • 86% said they either strongly or somewhat agree that employers need to do more to address the mental health needs of employees in the workplace.

In this Q&A, Magellan Healthcare’s Psychologist Advisor Dr. Yasmeen Benjamin provides insights on the connection between workplace violence and mental health awareness and suggestions on how employers can build a culture of safety.

Q: How does workplace violence awareness intersect with mental health awareness in the workplace?

Dr. Yasmeen Benjamin: A sense of safety is considered a basic human need in order for us to thrive in our daily lives. Given that we spend the majority of our time in the work environment, work environments must value safety, establish a set of expectations and policies around safety, and consistently reinforce these policies in order to provide a sense of safety for its workers.

Q: How can workplaces create a culture of safety and prevention to mitigate the risk of violence in the workplace?

Dr. Benjamin: The culture of safety should be imbedded within the values of the organization, as our actions tend to follow our value system.

Examples of safety-specific actions that would follow this value system are:

  • Trainings
  • Having ongoing discussions about the importance of building a culture of safety
  • Directly and publicly addressing issues of workplace violence when they occur

Additionally, I’m a huge believer that prevention starts with an ability to assess. What is the propensity for violence given individual, social, and environmental factors? Are trends changing and how does one adjust and become more informed as a result of the trends?

Q: What are some common mental health challenges that employees may face as a result of workplace violence or other workplace stressors?

Dr. Benjamin: When safety is lacking, we can see an increase in stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and job dissatisfaction (in the form of absenteeism, tardiness, and high turnover rates). In the instance of workplace violence, people can go on to develop conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder as well as other conditions. It is important to note that all of these symptoms and conditions are treatable with the right supports, resources, and interventions. It is also important to keep in mind, that generally speaking, the longer one is exposed to stressors, the longer symptoms can persist once the stressor is removed.

Q: What resources and support services should employers provide to promote mental well-being among employees?

Dr. Benjamin: It is important that we continue to take steps to make discussions surrounding mental health less taboo while respecting individual privacy. I highly suggest employees utilize insurance resources to access the mental healthcare that is available to them. Also, consider accessing wellness resources such as gym membership discounts and meditation/mindfulness app discounts. As best as we can (with a recognition that life can be extremely busy) it’s important to build and maintain healthy self-care habits. These types of habits can be instrumental when combating work-related and life-related stressors.

Q: Are there specific strategies or initiatives that employers can implement during Workplace Violence Awareness Month to promote mental health awareness and support?

Dr. Benjamin: Bringing attention to the topic is an important start. Hopefully, articles like this spark the type of assessment that I mentioned earlier and lead readers to include a personal assessment of their own mental health status and wellness practices.