New Legislation Addresses Burnout

Since September this year, all employers operating in Belgium are required by law to take preventive measures to counteract psycho-social risks determined by work-related stress (burnout). Belgium is the first EU Member State to implement such legislation.

The main symptoms of burnout include: stress, depression, physical and emotional exhaustion, low self-esteem and irritability at work, neglecting one’s personal needs to work harder, lack of motivation, frustration and eventually self-medicating to handle an increased amount of work tasks.

Castle Craig Hospital was one of the key partners of Community Help Service, a mental health care centre for expats living in Belgium, in organising a conference on burnout in Brussels on the 10th of October. We invited psychiatrists, other healthcare professionals, and human resource managers to learn more about burnout in the workplace.

At the conference, Professor Jonathan Chick, Medical Director at Castle Craig Hospital addressed the symptoms and signs of burnout, saying that these “overlap a lot with those of stress, which makes it difficult to diagnose. Some people anaesthetise feelings of anger and bitterness with sedatives such as alcohol and tranquilisers; or seek to counteract exhaustion with a dose of a stimulant such as cocaine.”

Prof. Chick explains that burnout most often affects those in the middle of the power hierarchy. A 1999 European Commission Report on work-related stress in the 15 EU Member States at the time of the study, found that work-related stress affected 15 million workers and cost €20 billion annually.

“Burnout is real. However, it has not yet been qualified as a psychiatric syndrome”, said Harry Pomerantz, Clinical Director at the Community Health Services. “It is thus often not given as a diagnosis as treatment for it is not reimbursed by many health insurance schemes.”

The good news is that through the new legislation and events like the conference, action is being taken in order to raise awareness of burnout, which will hopefully determine more research into it. “If a workload is structured according to people’s sensitivities, capacities and competences, then you could prevent most burnout cases”, concludes Dr. Pomerantz.

Castle Craig alcohol & drugs rehab clinic has the medical expertise to treat burnout associated with addiction. To find out more about how we offer support to companies, read more here.