From Our Listeners

Letters: 'Permatemp' Economy, Mental Illness At Work

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NPR's Neal Conan reads from listener comments on previous show topics, including the new temp economy, the world through the eyes of Vietnam veterans, and coping with mental illness at work.


It's Tuesday, and time to read from your comments. Last week, we talked about the difficulty of coping with mental illness in the workplace with Elyn Saks, a USC law professor who deals with schizophrenia.

I also suffer from schizophrenia and I am high in function in a rather demanding job, wrote Matt. I was told similar things. You'll be working fast-food or just volunteering, et cetera. And although I'm on a slow degrade, I'm working in my job in the tech industry and finishing my college degree. I'm lucky that I have an excellent support system and a wonderful boss who are behind me and keep me going. It's very difficult to hide the illness. For the most part, I will tell people what's wrong with me when I get a good feeling about them and the vast majority are supportive. The saddest part of the illness is that we still have symptoms even though we are medicated. There seems to be no magic pill as of yet.

Amid questions about how John Kerry and Chuck Hagel's experience in Vietnam might influence policy decisions now, we spoke with Vietnam vets.

Tony(ph) in Boise said: I was an Army medic in 1971 based in the central highlands near Da Lat. Went from antiwar demonstrator to my role as a non-combatant medic. But the transformative part for me was the exposure that the draft and the military gave me of the full breadth of America. Having grown up in a sheltered environment with one worldview, I was suddenly exposed to so much more. I'm afraid that our national fragmentation today is due in part to the absence of the kind of social, economic and educational blending that the draft and the military imposed on us.

An article in The New York Times suggested that temporary work might be a big part of the new economy. We asked how temping has worked out for you.

New graduate Mike has been looking for full-time work in New York City for nine months. In the meantime, he's temping. The uncertainty of living month to month is scary, he wrote. It's either feast or famine. I wish employers would stop stiffing people. I had two freelance to full-time opportunities fall through. Full-time work means consistent pay and ability for me to make student loan payments on a regular basis without going on the rice-only diet.

But Santiago(ph) in San Francisco wrote: In the high tech industry, you can find people like me who found the right balance in life doing temp work. I engage in short-term, highly creative projects that help my clients and leave a good amount of the year free for me to spend with my family, travel and improve my skills. I don't think I'll go back as a permanent employee ever.

If you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is Please, let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. If you're on Twitter, you can follow us there, @totn.

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