Sitting on an airplane on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to depart on a business trip and killing time ’til takeoff by browsing news articles on my phone, I came across an article about karoshi, a Japanese term for “killed by overwork.”

I stopped browsing, shocked, and started over. I slowly read the whole piece, enthralled.

The idea is that in the last decade, competitive forces and economic uncertainties have prompted many employees to work longer and longer hours, and to put up with more and more stress as part of their job. After all, a stressful or time-consuming job is better than no job, especially when you’ve got family depending on you or no help available if you’re unable to support yourself.

That’s all well and good, but some people just take it too far and end up working themselves into an early grave instead of risking unemployment. They end up with crazy blood pressure and have a stroke, or keel over with a heart attack, or they deliberately kill themselves just to make the stress stop.

The full article cites a string of suicides at a French telecom company as an example. In one case, a father of two threw himself off a bridge because he couldn’t take it anymore. He left his two children fatherless because he let his job crush his spirit.

Now, don’t anyone get alarmed — this is not a desperate cry for help. I’m not in crisis, and am not a threat to myself or others. Frankly, I just thought it was a fascinating statement to how bad things can seem at times, when viewed through a lens of desperation and hopelessness.

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