THE workplace bullying that teenage apprentice Alec Meikle was allegedly subjected to “appeared to be the sole contributing factor” to the severe depression that ultimately led to his suicide, the Coroner’s Court has heard.
Alec, 17, hanged himself on October 13, 2008 following months of alleged bullying at the hands of his supervisor and colleagues at the Bathurst operation of train manufacturer, Downer EDI.
An inquest into the teenager’s death has heard that he was allegedly burnt with a welding torch, sprayed with adhesive spray, and set on fire over the course of five months in early to mid 2008.
A number of his colleagues also allegedly subjected him to near-constant verbal abuse, and threatened to anally rape him with a steel dildo.
A Bathurst psychiatrist who treated Alec in mid 2008 yesterday said the teenager had told him he had had suicidal thoughts, including throwing himself in front of the early morning train that passed by his workplace.
“He said ‘dying [would be] a lot easier than going through this’,” Dr Andrew Frukacz said.
“But at the time there were no plans to follow through on these ideas ... I thought he was a low risk. He was away from the situation, he was planning some good things, including returning to New Zealand.”
Dr Frukacz diagnosed the teenager with anxiety, depression and an adjustment disorder, and said the bullying he had received at Downer appeared to be the main cause.
“From the history Alec presented to me it appeared that that was the sole contributing factor in the development of his anxiety and depressive condition,” he said.
“He talked about being harassed at the school but it clearly never got to the point where he had to see a psychiatrist.
“The thing that seemed to really upset him and distress him was the unrelentingly negative comments about his work. That lessened his resilience. If you’re being told consistently that your work is no good, it destroys your sense of self and your inner belief that you can cope with things.”
The inquest heard that in mid 2008 Alec returned to New Zealand, the country of his birth, where he was treated by a psychologist, Kerry Gould. Ms Gould subsequently wrote in her notes that the workplace bullying Alec was subjected to “had made him doubt his masculinity”.
The inquest, before Deputy NSW Coroner Paul McMahon, continues.
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