Careers and crisis: The impact of stress in the financial services sector

Financial services professionals manage trillions of dollars in assets. In fact, the financial future of many Americans rests in their hands. Of course, we want anyone who’s managing our money to take the responsibility seriously. But did you ever stop to think about what it might be like to shoulder that burden day after day? Especially when markets implode like they did during the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Sixty-one percent of brokers suffer from depression. And sometimes the long hours, organizational pressures to perform, and client expectations can be deadly. Employees in positions like brokers, investment advisers, investment bankers, and traders are 39 percent more likely to commit suicide than the American workforce as a whole.



Exposing the financial services “superfecta”: unmanaged depression, mood disorders, workplace stress, and substance abuse

From Margin Call to The Big Short, Hollywood has often portrayed the extreme pressure portfolio managers, investment bankers, and traders endure—all, of course, for megabucks. The money—and the bad behavior that often go with it—are either glorified or vilified. However,  the behavioral health issues that consume many in the industry go largely ignored. In the movies and in real life.

In the real world, behavioral health issues exact a tremendous personal price that no amount of compensation can remedy. The statistics tell an unnerving tale. According to the CDC, in the four most recent years for which suicide rates are available, 329 suicides occurred among finance professionals—the second most of any occupation tracked.

Suicides grab the headlines, but substance abuse and emotional exhaustion cripple the productivity of workers who simply can’t manage the demands of high-stress jobs. Many self-medicate to cope. After marijuana, amphetamine use is the second most common reason for failed drug tests among financial employees.

“The titans of Wall Street normalize crazy behavior all the time. If somebody’s delivering and showing up and doing the work, they almost have to catch on fire for someone to sound the alarm,” says  Brad Lamm, president of New York-based Intervention Specialists.

Something clearly needs be done since, if anything, careers in financial services have grown more stressful over the last few years. New rules, layoffs, and smaller bonus checks have added a layer of fear over an already pressure-filled environment. And, as  Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) notes,  “In some high-stress careers, worrying about mental health is seen as a weakness and goes untreated.”

Continuing to leave employees without resources  to effectively deal with high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression could have lasting  impacts on their physical health. Substance use alone can have an irreversible impact on one’s life. Solutions are now available  that can  enable employers to help their employees access behavioral healthcare when they need it, while strictly following federal healthcare privacy rules. Personalized platforms like Castlight Elevate can help identify at-risk employees, provide them with the information they need to make educated treatment choices, and commence care instantly.

It’s  time to recognize and address behavioral health challenges in the financial services industry. Castlight can help.

 Check out Castlight Elevate to understand more about the hidden impacts of behavioral health issues in the workplace, and how to address them.