Commonly held ideas about the superiority of mental health and personal well-being in many European countries are often backed up by statistics about the average workweek in such countries, and among the nations with the most coveted working conditions, France is typically vetted as the best. With shorter, 35-hour weeks, ample time for lunch breaks, and generous vacation packages, French jobs are often considered to be especially luxurious and beneficial for the avoidance of stress and other taxes on mental health. A recent series of suicide incidents, both attempted and successful, at a major French organization, however, has brought the national working conditions into question, under a particularly bright media spotlight.
France Telecom, a major employer, has recently been hit with 38 suicides–-24 of which have been successful–within the past 20 months. A remarkably high number of attempts and successful suicides, the figures have created an outrage amongst the public as well as throughout the company itself, where workers complain that a new modernization and globalization scheme has created excessive stress and disappointment among employees. Some of those who ended their lives and their careers-–or attempted to do so–at the company left notes or otherwise described unacceptable management and excessive criticism. Throughout the country, in fact, a push toward integrating traditional French business values and practices with those of the United States and other leading economies has suggested that workers are enjoying their famously relaxed conditions less.
As occupational and mental health experts alike study the case of France Telecom in an effort to understand the recent incidents, the suggestion that rapid globalization and the introduction of high-stress, poorly managed environments may lead to untenable mental health conditions is not likely to be ignored.
Charlton, E. (2009, October 6). Does work kill in the country of 35-hour week? Phys.org. Retrieved from http://phys.org/news174026422.html
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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