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Dr. Erin Kelly

Workplace Violence and Staff Well-Being: Everyday Hassles and Acute Crises

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“People with mental illness are not at higher risk for being assaultive in general. The situations that I am talking about right now are people who are in psychiatric inpatient settings, and so it can seem that people with mental illness are just a much more violent group. But many studies show that people with mental illness are not more violent than the general population, and so we really need to be careful not to stigmatize people with mental illness and assume that they are going to be violent just because they have a mental illness.”

Dr. Erin Kelly

Exposure to workplace violence is an unfortunate reality for some social workers. Workers may experience violence directly, or may be secondary witnesses to violence. This violence can be physical or verbal, and may be perpetrated by clients or other workers. In addition, various aspects of working environments can contribute to the prevalence and forms of workplace violence.

In this podcast, Dr. Erin Kelly discusses her research on workplace violence in a large inpatient mental health facility and its implications for staff functioning. She shares some of her data on staff members’ responses to workplace violence and the impact it has on them, as well as discusses environmental factors that influence workplace violence and staff conflicts. Dr. Kelly also provides helpful practical suggestions for both leaders in organizations and clinicians for reducing and responding effectively to staff conflict and workplace violence. She closes with an important message about the need to combat the false stigma that persons living with mental illness are prone to violence, and emphasizes that her research focuses on the unique context of psychiatric inpatient settings.

Erin Kelly received her PhD from the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine in 2012. During her graduate career, she focused on how various public institutions dealt with mental illness and violence in the community (e.g., domestic violence) and within institutions (e.g., prisons and mental hospitals). She was interested in both providers and recipients of care in these contexts as they can have reciprocal influences on each other. Over the course of her post-doctoral studies, she has studied development of bottom-up strategies for improving the health and quality of life for those with serious mental illnesses and policy enactment of top-down strategies. At present, she is currently testing whether those with mental illnesses, in conjunction with a peer health navigator intervention, can leverage a personal health record to improve their communication with medical and mental health providers.

Interviewer: Steven Schwartz

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