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The burnt out generation

Depression, sleep disorders, medications – and skipped holidays. A new research reveals the grim real daily life situation of thirty-year old journalists.

More often than every third has sought professional help for his burn-out. Every one in four says he has taken either sleeping or depression medication.

For Freelance journalists and those seeking jobs, up to four in ten have taken medication for depression or for sleeplessness. Also journalists on short-term contracts have gone on medication more often than permanently employed ones. Young women easily go on medication than men and are clearly ahead of men in the frequency with which they go to seek professional help for burnout, depression and stress symptoms.

The results are from a new Union of Journalists in Finland (UJF) survey on occupational welfare responded to by 572 young people between the ages of 26-35. Fifty per cent of the respondents are permanently employed.

The burnout of young journalists and the use of medication harshly depict the situation of the sector: young people are clinging tenaciously to fragmented jobs, reduced editorial staff and young people running after short-term contracts dare not take a holiday.

According to the survey, over one-third of those on six-month contracts have not taken a day’s holiday in the last two years. The results have surprised the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

It looks really bad. If the goal is to extend and improve on careers, this is not the way to do it”, says Anneli Leppänen, director of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Leppänen who has researched on journalists says that five years ago work burnout was still rare among young journalists: less than five per cent suffered burnout.

Leppänen points out that the decline of professional self-esteem easily leads to burnout. A fifth of the respondents said that their own self-esteem was shaky. A third of those with less than six months contract were of the same opinion.

About a quarter of all working age Finns suffers from some kind of burnout. Six to seven per cent have acute depression. Eighteen per cent of the Finnish people will suffer from depression at some stage in their lives.

“In that light the figures for the number of depressed and burnt-out young journalists are really worrying”, says Katinka Tuisku, senior medical officer at the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health. She points out that too much workload has been proven to be the cause of increasing number of staff using psychiatric drugs. Stress leads to work absence, and poor management of work schedule especially leads to women developing mental health problems.

According to Sanoma News’ own staff survey conducted this year, the recession affected the atmosphere in the editorial office. Respondents said they expressed change-induced stress “somewhat or a lot”.

“The younger one is, the more certain it is to wonder whether there is work in the sector in the future. Organisations have been scaled down and the increase in workload affects the whole editorial offices’ organisation. I would wonder if any chief editor would say he sleeps well night at night”, comments Kari Vainio, chief editor of Turun Sanomat.

According to Vainio, the young are also under pressure because they don’t necessarily know what is expected of them.

“The young people want to perform their work well but one doesn’t necessarily have to handle the whole world’s problems. We had to discuss this also. The responsibility for prioritisation however, does not lie with the journalist but rather with his superior”.

The message of chief editors to those under pressure of short-term contracts is wretched: there is hardly an end in sight of short-term contracts.

“It is cruel that permanent workers are offered all kinds of flexibilities that the ones on short-term contract have to patch up. Two different labour markets have been created”, says chief editor of Aamulehti, Jouko Jokinen.

According to him, a young journalist can be on temporary position without worrying for up to four years. It is only when the situation continues for longer, according to him, then there arises a cause for thinking of alternatives.

“A very good alternative is to become an entrepreneur. I guess that an entrepreneur would have more work due to the Internet”, he says.

A new legislation is being prepared which attempts to cut away the stringing up of temporary work contracts. If it could be shown that the labour needs of an employer is permanent, then repetitive temporary positions would not be allowed.

Translated and edited by Linus Atarah

Original story: http://www.journalistiliitto.fi/journalisti/lehti/2010/17/artikkelit/uupunut-sukupolvi/