Burnout: Why Jacinda Ardern’s ‘rare’ admission about her mental health matters | World News


Jacinda Ardern has been praised for “normalising” burnout after she announced she would step down as New Zealand’s prime minister, saying she has “nothing left in the tank”.

Ms Ardern, 42, who became leader in 2017, choked back tears during an emotional news conference at which she said: “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Although she did not specifically use the phrase “burnout”, a leading psychologist said this was “absolutely what she was alluding to”.

“She said ‘the tank is empty’ – that’s burnout,” Professor Sir Cary Cooper, who has just published a book, Burnout In The Workplace, said.

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“It’s unfortunate we don’t get enough of people saying that who are in leadership. Instead, they carry on and carry on, or when they do leave they give some other excuse.

“It would be nice if they were open and honest.”

Prof Cooper said that it is “relatively rare” for someone so high up to speak out about their mental health, particularly in politics or business – though there have been notable exceptions in the past.

In 1998 Kjell Bondevik, the Norwegian prime minister, attracted international attention when he announced he had depression – becoming the highest-ranking world leader to admit to suffering from a mental illness while in office.

More recently in business, Tom Blomfield, the founder of digital challenger bank Monzo, has previously opened up about his struggles with anxiety, and HSBC executive Stuart White spoke about his own depression.

Prof Cooper said the impact of Ms Ardern’s candour would be “very positive”: “When you get people in a position of influence, in senior roles, saying something it has a more profound change on other people being prepared to open up themselves.”

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Kjell Bondevik was the first world leader to publicly speak about suffering mental health issues. Pic: AP

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job.

It was recognised as a medical condition in 2019 by the World Health Organisation, which defines it as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

The phrase was coined in the 1970s after the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger experienced such fatigue and stress from his work that he could not get out of bed.

He said the burnout was not just exhaustion and was not exactly depression – it was a reaction to stress and frustration.

“It’s a response to a demand that an individual may make upon themselves in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive,” Freudenburger said.

What are the symptoms?

Burnout is characterised by three symptoms:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy
Ardern gave birth to her daughter while in office in 2018. Pic: AP
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Ms Ardern, who admitted burnout, gave birth to her daughter while in office in 2018. Pic: AP

How big a problem is it?

One in five Britons told Mental Health UK that they feel “unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace” in a survey of more than 2,000 people in March 2021.

Only 23% of workers said their workplace had a plan in place to spot the signs of chronic stress and prevent burnout in employees.

Stress, depression and anxiety were the leading causes of workplace absences in 2021/22, accounting for 51% of all new and long-standing cases of work-related ill health.

“This is a big issue,” Prof Cooper said.

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Sam Fender cancelled a series of concerts

Who else has spoken out about it?

The singer Sam Fender cancelled a series of concerts last year, citing his mental health and burnout.

He posted on Twitter that he had “neglected myself for over a year now and haven’t dealt with things that have deeply affected me”.

“Me and the boys are burnt out and we need this time,” he said.

US gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from a number of finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite being expected to equal her record-breaking medal tally from four years earlier.

Biles said she had “freaked out in a high-stress situation” and had withdrawn to “focus on my well-being. There is more to life than just gymnastics.”

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USA's Simone Biles in the Women's Balance Beam Final at Ariake Gymnastic Centre on the eleventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Tuesday August 3, 2021.
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Simone Biles pulled out of several Olympic finals

Sandra Bullock: ‘It was like opening up an empty fridge’

The award-winning actress Sandra Bullock said she was taking a break from acting last year.

“I’m so burnt out. I’m so tired, and I’m so not capable of making healthy, smart decisions,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

She did not say how long the break might last but said that work had become her “crutch”.

“It was like opening up a fridge all the time and looking for something that was never in the fridge,” she said.

Sandra Bullock arriving for the UK premiere of The Lost City at Cineworld Leicester Square, central London. Picture date: Thursday March 31, 2022.
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Sandra Bullock is taking a break from acting

What to do if you think you might have burnout

Prof Cooper said to try and get to the bottom of “what is driving the burnout” if you are worried that you or someone you know has it – either through speaking to a professional or someone close to you.

If stress is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, call NHS 111 or talk to your GP. In England, you can also refer yourself for psychological therapy through the NHS IAPT service without seeing your GP.

“We always have options for whatever the driving cause is for our ill health,” he said.

“We all have options.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

You can also seek support from Time to Change or the Mental Health Foundation.



This story originally Appeared on skynews

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