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article imageOp-Ed: 40% of workers at risk in mental health crisis, say experts

By Paul Wallis     Jun 2, 2012 in Health
Sydney - A recent Australian study found that 40 per cent of Australians are in “insecure jobs”. Australians overall have some of the best working conditions in the world, so about half the global workforce is in meltdown if those figures are accurate.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. In the mix of job insecurity issues comes another unholy problem for the world’s employees- Endlessly rising costs of living. 30 years ago, an income of $40,000 Australian dollars was relative affluence. (That salary could get you a loan on a 3 bedroom house, in the 1980s. Now, it’s just above the poverty line, provided you’re single and have no kids. You might get a pay as you go loan for your funeral, but don’t bet on it.) So add money worries to job worries and you get the Workers’ Paradise we have today.
The job insecurity, however, is a hyperbolic situation. Stress causes depression, which naturally undermines job performance. Worrying about a job can actually cost you your job. Add to this the usually primitive reactions of employers to anyone suffering from a “mental illness” of any kind, and forget about Equal Employment. The person with the stress is the problem, not the job causing the stress.
Beyond Blue, a national organization devoted to mental health, found a grimly familiar picture.
ABC Australia defines the issues:
With 40 per cent of the Australian workforce in insecure work arrangements, Ms Carnell (Beyond Blue CEO) says it has become a serious public health problem.
"Heart health is affected by exercise levels, stress levels, dietary approaches and so on, so bad lifestyle outcomes can cause definite heart problems and mental health is very much part of that whole mix," she said.
"There is no doubt that job insecurity is a major major cause of job strain and job strain is a major risk factor for depression.
"So we're seeing more depression in the workplace, we're seeing more absenteeism and almost more importantly more presenteeism - people who are coming to work when they are depressed without the capacity to concentrate enough, and that can be an issue with other people in the workplace.
"They're coming to work simply because they're scared of losing their jobs."
Depression, for those who haven’t had it, is tough enough without work pressures. I have had depression, and hated it. I beat it, but ever since then I’ve wanted to do as much as possible to help anyone suffering from this obscene, hideous condition. These findings mean that physical health can be seriously compromised by depression.
Heart and other issues can actually kill or incapacitate people quite easily. Stress hormones are also nasty, and can affect your metabolism and your nervous system very badly. If you’ve ever been in shock, you’ll recognise that sick, hyper-tense feeling, but with depression it’s always there, with uncontrollable emotional states as a repulsive “bonus”.
Depression is also lethal on the job. “…without the capacity to concentrate” is one of the classic symptoms of depression. The mind simply can’t focus. Depression is a physical illness, but affects the mind. It is actually a medical condition based on a medical condition. You get depression as you get stressed and rundown, and the more rundown you get on the job, the more likely you are to get it. Lack of exercise and even a run of minor conditions like colds and flu can effectively run you down, too.
What’s the job market doing about it? Nothing, as usual
These people with job insecurity aren’t hypochondriacs. They’re responding as human beings usually do to a dangerous environment. In this case, it’s an insane environment. The employment market doesn’t recognize health issues if it can help it, let alone mental health issues. Casual employees don’t have paid leave, usually don’t have health cover, and often have very difficult financial situations to manage. These people are vulnerable in many ways to the risks of depression.
The “workaholic” rubbish of the 80s has a lot to answer for. The “hard working executive” of the past was always and still is basically a thief, stealing from their employers, getting endless pay rises and demanding more of workers whose wages went down in real terms. Employers are either too stupid or too naïve to understand these issues.
Add to this the mass outsourcing of jobs to slave labor wage countries, and you arrive at this pleasant juncture in history.
Will our fearless governments regulate? No, of course not. They’ll say existing laws cover the issues. They don’t.
Will employers suddenly develop a human streak? No, because nobody trained them to understand these issues.
Will workers revolt? No, because there’s no reality TV show about how to carry out a revolution.
Will success corrupt humanity? No, because there is no success. Just illusions and relative lack of failure. History teaches that the rich of today sooner or later become the poor of tomorrow. The turnover rate has multiplied a thousand times since 2008, and is increasing. The lesson will be repeated until learned, as usual.
The healthy prosperity of the past has given rise to the super-sick poverty plague of the present and the disgustingly obvious possibilities of the future. As usual, the problems could be fixed by basic common sense. Also as usual, sense of any kind is in very short supply. A thousand years from now, people will wonder how a society with all the resources it needs to do anything could mismanage itself so badly.
The history of human idiocy will continue until someone introduces he human race to the basic idea of recognizing major problems and doing something about them, not just letting them fester on for decades. Might improve the US job market, too.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Beyond Blue, Kate Carnell, depression in the workplace, Job stress, stress related health
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