A leading expert in the area of anxiety and depression has told a major conference that human beings are dealing with an unprecedented burden of toxic stress.

And he said that employers have to provide for this by introducing programmes in the workplace, because employees are not designed to take the kind of workloads and pressure demanded of them today.

Speaking at the fourth annual Bon Secours Hospital Cork Mindfulness conference ‘Building Resilience through Mindfulness’ in UCC at the weekend, GP and author Dr Harry Barry said the pressures of modern life have created an epidemic of toxic stress which employers must actively address.

He said: “The biggest casualty in all organisations is, unfortunately, the human being, the employee. In modern businesses, everything is moving so fast, it is so changeable that there’s so much pressure. Unfortunately, human beings are not designed to take the kind of workloads and pressure that modern society demands of them.”


“As everything is going faster and faster with more technology and more change we need to train our staff to have the skills to be able to cope with that and look after themselves. People are the most precious resource and the importance of developing a self-care programme can’t be overstated. All of us who work in business, professional or health arenas are at risk of ‘burnout’ otherwise known as ‘Toxic Stress’.?

“This occurs when our mental and physical reserves are overrun by the pressures of life.? The consequences of Toxic Stress as we will see, can be profound for both ourselves and those we love.?”


Bon Secours Director of Nursing in Bon Secours Hospital Cork Ber Mulcahy, who has an HDip in Coaching Psychology and an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Interventions, says that there is a huge need for stress reduction in the workplace, particularly in health care where employees often express and suffer the symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout.

She said: “Through my research, I have discovered that happy staff make happy patients. You can’t give to somebody else what you don’t give to yourself; it’s a very basic principle. We at Bon Secours Hospital Cork have embarked on training staff and mindfulness techniques and building their resilience and making them much happier people.

“We certainly want to spread the message because we see days like today’s conference as a community initiative. One small change in a big population will have a great common good effect for the wider community.”