Social shaming and bullying of mental health staff by patients: A survey in a mental health centre

Sara Zaitsev Assuline, Bella Savitsky, Rachel Wilf-Miron, Ilya Kagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is known on the subject?: Public shaming, especially by consumers of healthcare, is getting worse and has become a specific case of bullying Despite extensive research on physical and verbal violence directed towards mental health workers, the issue of social shaming and bullying by patients or relatives has not been sufficiently researched. What the paper adds to existing knowledge: Mental healthcare workers are exposed to the threat of social shaming and bullying on a regular almost weekly basis Abusive behaviours by patients are associated with professional burnout, decreases in professional functioning and even a tendency to leave the workplace among mental health workers. What are the implications for practice?: The stability and strength of the therapeutic alliance between healthcare giver and psychiatric patient are critical to the success of the treatment There is a need to develop a dedicated organizational policy for the prevention, early detection, intervention and support for teams exposed to social shaming and bullying An emphatic response, and effective intervention in a case of social shaming may improve professional functioning and reduce burnout and intention to leave. Abstract: Introduction: Social shaming can impair caregivers' performance. The prevalence of shaming experienced by mental health workers and the relationships to their function or burnout is unknown. Aim: To examine the associations between exposure to social shaming and bullying by patients, the risk appraisal of negative impact of this behaviour, burnout, professional functioning and intention to leave among mental health workers. Method: In this cross-sectional study, 122 workers from a psychiatric hospital completed a questionnaire. Results: Participants reported exposure to social shaming and bullying by patients on a regular basis. Shaming and bullying were significantly associated with lower professional functioning and higher intention to leave, while burnout may at least partially mediate the association between these variables. Conclusions: The phenomenon of shaming and bullying of mental health workers by patients is common and is associated with lower functioning and higher burnout, which have a negative impact on the patient-caregiver interaction. Implications for Practice: There is a need to establish a policy for early detection of shaming of mental health workers in order to prevent burnout or intention to leave. Evidence based interventions, such as the Safewards model, accompanied by assessment of their effectiveness, may help in this effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-266
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • burnout
  • cross-sectional study
  • intention to leave
  • professional functioning
  • shaming and bullying by patients


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