It’s easy to imagine a perfect world where whistleblowers get the praise they deserve and don’t face any consequences for their good deeds. However, the chilling mental impact on whistleblowers is difficult to ignore.
Losing a job or being treated poorly by co-workers is just the tip of the iceberg. Some whistleblowers end up with severe mental and emotional problems as a result of just speaking up.
Whistleblowing Isn’t Their Fault
Despite how it may seem to an employer or co-worker, no one sets out to be a whistleblower. They often feel forced to do it due to the wrongdoings of others. Yet, the person who reports unethical behavior is often seen as the bad guy. The employer may shun them and co-workers are afraid to trust them.
Sadly, even though it’s not the whistleblower’s fault, sometimes they are punished. While some whistleblowers get praise or even monetary rewards, many just get treated badly. The weight of the harassment and retaliation is enough to make them break.
Loss Of Self
The mental impact of whistleblowers often begins when they lose their friends at work or even their job. For many people, their career is who they are. Losing that creates a loss of self. Confusion, sadness and anxiety can all set in. The life the whistleblower once knew is suddenly over. With the loss of their job, they may also lose relationships, their home and everything else they’re used to. It’s a domino effect that has serious mental consequences.
A Variety Of Mental Issues
It doesn’t matter the gender, age or even type of industry. Whistleblowers suffer from a variety of mental issues due to retaliation, fear, bullying, lengthy investigations and more. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, panic attacks, drug/alcohol abuse and even suicide are all potential mental issues whistleblowers face. In fact, in one study, 45% of participants suffered from clinical anxiety and depression.
For some, these issues become a life long struggle. If they lose their job, they may have trouble even getting insurance to pay for mental health care.
Difficulties Getting Support
Even if whistleblowers report retaliation, it can take years for anything to be done. During this time, the person is still being punished at work and may be shut out of other jobs if their name goes public for speaking up. Studies have found that the longer the journey, the worse the mental impact on whistleblowers may be. The best option is to locate peer support groups to learn from others how to continue on.
Knowing the mental impact on whistleblowers is sometimes enough to make employees not speak up. However, it’s only by protecting and treating whistleblowers right that businesses can create a stronger ethical culture and even grow more effectively. By implementing an anonymous hotline, these whistleblower emotional and mental impacts can be dramatically mitigated.