A few weeks ago Moritz Erhardt collapsed and died in his London home after working until 6am for three days straight.
The 21-year-old Bank of America intern was coming to the end of his seven-week stint at London-based Merill Lynch. He planned to work hard for a few years before retiring from finance to ‘do something good’ for the world.
Erhardt is just one of the many young people hoping to make a lot of money in a short amount of time so they can spend the rest of their lives enjoying themselves or trying to make a difference to the world.
Sadly this ‘dream’ ending hoped for by many young investment bankers is, for most, non-existent. Workers become trapped in employment as they grow older and find themselves paying extortionate mortgages and school fees. One banker said: “We’re all trapped. There’s no big money to be made any more – just enough to keep you from jacking it in and doing something interesting.”
Former high-yield bond broker Venitia Thompson said she started out in the City working from 7am to the early hours of the morning several times a week. She said she often found herself standing in the shower at 5am taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm her heart rate down.
At first she found the job glamorous. She was able to put up with the exhaustion and the panic attacks for the one magical hit of adrenaline when she traded. She even ended up in hospital on a drip after doctors told her that her body’s defences had stopped functioning normally. The thought that kept her powering on through was that she only had to do this for a few years to live the rest of her life how she wanted.
Unfortunately, many bankers are finding that this is not the case and the hard work has to continue. Everybody has a cut off point – tragically for some people, that cut off point is death.
The urge to work hard often comes from internal pressures – a desire to win approval, or to avoid feelings of failure or inferiority. These huge pressures can lead to mental health problems including stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts and suicide.
For too many ambitious young people in the world, working all-nighters to be better than the guy sitting next to them is seen as the only route to success and happiness.
However, the reality is that when it comes to performance, rest is crucial. To avoid stress and other work-related mental health problems, it is crucial to take a step back and relax for a while. A good night’s sleep is crucial to mood and the ability to concentrate.
To find out how counselling can help, please visit our Work Related Stress page.
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