This week, a Wisconsin state legislative committee deliberating on the Healthy Workplace Bill heard about the 2008 suicide of Jodie Zebell, who took her own life after enduring months of workplace bullying at the clinic where she worked as a mammographer. As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal:
In 2008, 31-year-old Jodie Zebell appeared to have a full life. The UW-Madison graduate was married with two young children and a part-time job as a mammographer at a La Crosse clinic, where she was praised as a model employee.
But soon afterward, Zebell became the target of co-workers who unfairly blamed her for problems at work. After she was promoted, the bullying intensified….(T)he boss joined in the harassment, filling Zebell’s personnel file with baseless complaints about her performance and loudly criticizing her in front of others.
“This went on for a series of months,” said [her aunt Joie] Bostwick, a Blue Mounds native who now lives in Naples, Fla. “It just got worse and worse.”
On Feb. 3, 2008, the day before she was to receive a poor job review, Jodie Zebell took her own life.
The Journal article recounts the testimony of many other workers who have been subjected to severe workplace bullying. It closes with a plea from University of Wisconsin labor studies professor Corliss Olson, who has long been involved in advocacy and education efforts around workplace bullying:
Corliss Olson, associate professor at the UW-Extension’s School for Workers, said the bill is “desperately” needed.
Olson said most targets of bullying are “normal, competent people” who can be driven to disability or even death.
“This is a viciousness in the workplace that we need to stop,” Olson said. “We can and we must change our workplaces so they are civil.”
For good reason, much attention has been devoted in recent weeks to the suicide of Massachusetts teenager Phoebe Prince, who took her own life after a merciless campaign of bullying by her schoolmates.
In addition, we cannot forget that in severe circumstances, adults can be driven to suicide because of horrific treatment at work that threatens their security and livelihoods.
For Help: If you find yourself or someone you care about at risk, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached around the clock at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or here.