Psychological Aspects of prolonged recession resulting in job loss and loss of esteem

As a Psychologist, I am concerned with the current number of workers dropping out of the work force, giving up hope of finding a job, becoming discouraged and failing to seek training to obtain the skills for a job position that will provide them with a job future.

Psychological studies indicate a link between unemployment and increase in mental health issues.

The 1938 studies in the Great Recession, the 1957 studies of the Middle Recession and the most recent studies of the Modern Recession focus on the mental health issues of the unemployed. They targeted on those who were out of work for more than 2 years.

All studies indicated that there was an increase in depression.

Breadwinners, usually men, were torn from their traditional roles as providers, while other family members were forced into non-traditional roles to provide the income for the family to survive.

First, in a well-functioning family, everyone sacrifices to weather the bad times, assuming that the primary breadwinner will again be employed in a relatively short period of time.

The problem arises when joblessness is extended for a long period of time. It can cause increasing stress on interpersonal relationships and may result in a breakdown in traditional roles and the fabric of the family.

Differences in men and their response to this situation

The tradition family role is for men to be the breadwinner. They always assumed they would be able to provide for their wife and children.  It is their responsibility and duty to do so.

When the man is one of the long term unemployed, women’s option to stay at home and raise the children is no longer an option. They must seek employment, changing the dynamics of the traditional family, causing tension from unrealized expectations and unusual sacrifices.

As mentioned, long term unemployment and the egocentric loss of family position as “breadwinner” can result in depression.

The depression can be so severe that the tasks of performing domestic chores, house work, cooking, laundry and dropping off and picking up the children at school and their activities to help out the family is beyond them.

The entire family fabric may become completely unraveled, when the woman begins to ask herself, “If my husband can’t contribute to the family finances, why do I need him?”

What to do?

Anyone out of work for extended periods of time is susceptible to bouts of mild to severe depression.

Spouses and family members need to realize the signs of depression, i.e. unusual sleep patterns, lack of energy, alcohol abuse and other forms of aggressive behavior.

  • The family members must encourage their spouse to get a full physical and seek the help of a psychologist to focus on specific coping skills. It may take a combination of a pharmaceutical and therapeutic approach to properly address depression.
  • Convince and support the spouse to enter training programs and develop the skills necessary to work in growth industries that offer opportunity for employment.
  • To have the entire family agree, if necessary, to relocate to states that have low unemployment rates.
  • To have the entire family realize the value of keeping the traditional family intact.