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"Whose Life is it Anyway?"

In a recent survey given by the Mental Health Foundation of Britain called "Whose life is it anyway?" respondents indicated a third of the British are unhappy with their job and some are so tortured by their work they have attempted suicide.

The problem of work related stress prompted the government to launch a program known as the Work-Life Balance Campaign three years ago but one in six people continue to work more than 60 hours a week. The result is that many have reported feeling irritable, anxious or depressed. Half of missed workdays are due to work-related stress and nearly a third of all employees will experience a mental health problem each year.

In the case of Valerie Smith, a 55-year-old secretary for a large company, problems began when she was transferred to another department. While her previous position, which she enjoyed, allowed her to interact with her colleagues she now found herself chained to a computer for an entire eight-hour shift. All communications were now carried out by computer and with telephone calls even kept to a minimum she began to feel very isolated.

Although Valerie was not working particularly long hours she began to feel pressured with all communications being computer based and geared up for speed. After she became depressed her doctor put her on anti-depressant medication.

Her problems did not improve until she left her secretarial job and took a part time position in a residential care home for the elderly. By making human interaction a part of her work pattern Valerie now looks forward to going to work each day.

Chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Andrew McCulloch claims that work stress is not only damaging to people’s health, but also friendships and relationships. He pointed out that most research on employee stress has been from the perspective of the costs to industry in terms of lowered productivity and lost workdays.

Concerned with the long-term costs to individuals he adds, "We know that many people neglect their relationships, social networks, their children and their hobbies and interests when they work long hours. These are all vital factors in mental well being, and neglecting them can put people at serious risk of developing mental health problems."

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