Here is the 7 min speech I gave in Spring 2011 at the Karlstad International Toastmasters Club’s first ever Speech Contest – for which I collected Third Prize, the other speakers were more personal and emotive – and yes dammit …better speeches!!
March 1st 2011
BANISHING BURN-OUT – It’s up to you!
Mr ToastMaster, fellow ToastMasters & honoured guests…
Below decks in a Roman galley the slave master addresses the slaves chained to their oars: “Slaves, the good news is that at the next port there will be food and grog for everyone…..The bad news is that this afternoon the captain wants to go water skiing
I’ve some Good news and Bad news… The Bad news is there’s a sickness spreading across Sweden …not the traditional stomach flu’ “Vinter kräksjuka”… but a different type of sickness.. and it’s getting worse…... it’s now an epidemic… and it’s draining the country’s economy, its energy… its motivation…and it’s costing one hell of a lot not just in terms of money but wasted human potential! I call it The Syndrome of the Sick-Note Swedes…I’ve been privileged to live here now for two years… this is a beautiful country in all respects…However since I’ve been here I’ve noticed more people suffering from ‘Burn-Out’ – or more precisely ‘stress-related illness’….than anywhere I’ve lived and worked before…So as part of a business project I did more research… the results shook me … the picture that emerged did not correspond to the image I had in my head of Sweden as a healthy, progressive, productive nation!
…here a just a couple of the many facts that shocked me …and they should shock you too..Sweden has one of the highest levels of absenteeism in the 1st world. “…Long term absenteeism due to sickness has been increasing in Sweden during the past two decades raising many questions about causes, financing and policy measures…”(*Article in The European Journal of Health Economics – School of Business, Economics and Law at Göteborg University)…
From the mid-1990s, there’s been an increase in the segment of the population reporting a decline in psychological well-being i.e. a growing tendency to feel anxious, worried and depressed – the first time such a negative result has been recorded since the surveys started in 1975…
During a 10-year period (1995–2005) the increase of people on long term absence was close to 100%
and on a bizarre twist… Swedes are healthier than almost any other people in the world… but they’re also off sick… more often than any other people!! ‘Burn-Out’ has now become a common-place idiom – a phrase the government desperately wants to see disappear from the language…Current methods and ‘stress management’ programs are treating symptoms rather than dealing with cause…
If un-addressed, the situation could result in long-term decline of the national interest! OK – That’s the bad news, So is there any the good news..?
…To find a successful cure and avoid economic and social decline of the patient …health and education authorities must invest in raising the ‘collective immune system’ to help people back to health and back to work.
For instance:…If the government invested in enlightened personal development, progressive life coaching and preventive-health programs at an early age in schools and all walks of life ….then slowly but surely the cycle of wasted human potential and economic and social decline could be reversed.
However… I have a fear… there seems to be an Attitude of Complacency… like an opaque sheet of glass it obscures the real picture… and hides uncomfortable truths that the national psyche doesn’t want to see!
The prevailing Attitude seems to be: ‘We lead the world in….Social Democracy, Education, Public service, Peace Love and Understanding… and our economy is a helluva sight better than yours!’
My friends… I believe it’s time to shatter the illusion that ‘God is in his heaven’ and ‘all is well in the State of Sweden’ …It’s time to start asking some tough questions… such as:
What are our politicians, business and community leaders doing to remedy this costly and debilitating Syndrome that affects this great country?
When will they grasp this thorny issue in both hands and develop holistic programs that help people to help themselves to become psychologically fitter… healthier…more fulfilled and motivated at home and at work?
These are the questions I now urge you to immediately start asking your politicians, business and public sector leaders… and the media… start writing emails, letters, tweets, make phone calls …do not acceptfuzzy or evasive answers..and don’t stop questioning until you see signs of positive movement and change!
So what’s the Good News..? The good news is : You are the good news… Sweden has a reputation as a nation of sensitive and cooperative citizens… people who have always stood up for ‘right action’ By getting together and taking united public action now you can change the the future… I invite you now to make your collective Voice heard..
This is not about Jantelagen or Consumerism or Immigration or right or left wing politics… It’s about the health and well-being of this and future generations. It is time to stand up for your future, to stand tall for this beautiful country and its fine people… but first you must stand up for yourselves!
Divided you can achieve nothing…United you will make the difference between ‘no action’ and ‘right action’ …Be the Good News…. and turn the Bad News pages of the past into the Good News headlines of the future… Fellow ToastMasters, guests, citizens & residents of this beautiful country
…It’s Time to Banish Burn-Out…
As Gandhi once said… “Be the change you wish to see in the world”……I would add… If not You… then Who? … and if not now…When?
Mr ToastMaster… Thank you
PS There are many more stats available to support my premise but the speech time allowed was only 7 mins!!
PPS I’d be happy to delve further into this with any national or local politicians, business/public sector or union leaders… and investigative journalists!