The longer the pandemic continues, the more damage it seems to leave in its wake. Some families grieve the loss of loved ones, others deal with the mental and physical repercussions of isolation from sheltering in place. And, still more people face the challenge—and devastation—from the loss of a job.
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, statistics reflect bleak outcomes in the employment market. A recent Forbes article revealed that approximately 22 million jobs lost last spring will not return until the early part of 2024. Additionally, in July of 2020 (alone), 31.3 million people reported the inability to work within a four-week period due to their employer either closing or losing their business due to the pandemic.
Losing a job—even in a time without a worldwide pandemic—can be traumatic. Especially for those who have an existing mental illness. In fact, it can increase the risk of both substance abuse and suicide and should be taken seriously. Unemployment impacts a person’s financial, emotional, social, and mental wellbeing.
Now, more than ever, the full weight and magnitude of job loss during the pandemic is causing many people symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sometimes, it may feel like there is no hope on the horizon. But, there are tools and strategies to help people of all ages and stages to navigate the trials and tribulations that come with unemployment.
At Futures of Recovery Healthcare, we understand the loneliness and challenges that come with a range of mental disorders (and circumstances). We have a team of compassionate, licensed care providers—doctors, psychotherapists, case managers, wellness professionals, nurses—who specialize in helping people with depression reduce and manage their symptoms. Our ultimate goal is to help encourage a joyful, productive, and fulfilling life moving forward.
Identifying the Signs of Depression and Anxiety From Job Loss
First and foremost, it’s important to know that if you are unemployed, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people without work in December went from 449,000 to 2.9 million—in fewer than five weeks! It’s also helpful to know that for many, it isn’t simply about “losing a job.” People often (whether consciously or unconsciously) consider their career as part of their identity. So, in no longer having a job, part of them feels empty and lost.
Job loss is significant enough to be recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to have a dedicated webpage. This illuminates the wide range of symptoms and effects of unemployment during the pandemic (but truly, these apply to any time). Those who are not working may experience a mix of:
In turn, these factors may cause:
- Experiencing feelings of self-loathing, guilt, and even hate
- Undergoing sleeping problems (too much sleep or insomnia)
- Fluctuating eating habits (loss of appetite or excessive eating)
- Ongoing issues with problems focusing and difficulty making decisions
- Developing of physical issues (headaches, stomach aches, body pain, skin rashes)
- Worsening of existing chronic and mental health problems
- Increasing use of substances
While some people may have only one or two of these symptoms, others may have more. Job loss can affect everyone differently. And, the length of time an individual has been unemployed can also impact how he/she feels as well.
Lasting Impacts of Unemployment-Related Mental Illness
It’s important to understand the chain of events that occur once a person has lost a job. Not only can it invite a host of emotional, mental, and physical challenges, it also impacts the day-to-day structure of a person’s life. When you have become accustomed to a routine schedule, seeing certain coworkers at certain times, going about your workday in a regimented pattern and it’s simply gone, the impact is significant.
And, the longer a person is out of work, the greater the negative consequences. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that the longer the stretch without a job, the worse individuals fare mentally. The mental health of those who are out of work for longer than six months is most negatively impacted.
Over time, continued unemployment leads to:
- Poor mental health
- Increased apathy
- Lack of motivation
- Disregard for personal appearance
- Decreased self-esteem and confidence
These issues and others make it difficult for someone without a job to rally and be encouraged about seeking new employment opportunities.
Data has also shown that in addition to both unemployment causing depression and depression leading to continued unemployment, having an expectation of job loss further impacts mental health. People with a higher expectation of job loss are said to have twice the number of depressive symptoms than those with lower expectations of losing their job.
How to Combat and Prevent Job-Loss-Related Depression
According to the APA, one of the most needed solutions for people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic is physiological support.
In addition to getting professional guidance and support from a mental health professional, one of the best ways to both work through—and prevent—unemployment-related depression is to restore structure and routine back into daily life.
To help manage and prevent depression from job loss, establishing the following steps can help:
- Creating a daily schedule
- Consulting with a therapist or counselor regularly (many people are doing this remotely while the pandemic is still happening)
- Including exercise and/or some type of physical activity as part of your everyday routine
- Making sure to establish regular/healthy sleeping patterns
- Taking time to do an activity or project that makes you feel happy/fulfilled
- Ensuring you are eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water
- Spending time with positive people and loved ones (even if it means remotely!)
- Trying new ways to find peace and contentment (yoga, meditation, reading)
- Utilizing a journal as a means of sharing your feelings and/or for goal setting
- Joining a support group of people who have also lost their jobs due to COVID-19
You may be asking—shouldn’t be looking for a new job be part of your daily structure? While finding employment is certainly important for your financial security and mental health, obsessing over a job, applying everywhere and anywhere, can actually harm your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Instead of frantically searching for employment, instead, dedicate one to two days to do a little here and there—brush up your resume and cover letter, edit your Linkedin page, check job-search sites, apply to a couple of positions that interest you.
And, it’s also important to face your finances head-on. Much of what exacerbates anxiety and depression from job loss is avoiding financial issues and commitments for fear of what you may find. But, when people do face their finances, line-by-line, they often find small ways to adjust their budget—putting a monthly subscription service on hold, getting rid of a TV or phone service that can be sacrificed for a while (or perhaps hasn’t been used in ages), and reducing the number of times you eat out.
Simple adjustments can go a long way to help reduce financial-related anxiety and depression.
In addressing finances, the “unknown” is no longer haunting, and you can be satisfied knowing you took steps toward bettering your financial state and overall mental health.
Another strategy to consider for those experiencing job-loss depression is to eliminate negative social interactions. As much as social media may feel at times like it’s helping to keep you connected to loved ones and friends, it can also be a platform for unsolicited opinions and advice. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or judged by social media posts related to your unemployment status, take a break.
What if I Have Tried Solutions But Still Feel Depressed?
As we mentioned earlier, job loss affects people differently. Perhaps you feel that you have tried every imaginable step and strategy to overcome job-loss-related depression or anxiety only to feel as if nothing is improving or changing.
It’s always important to seek a medical professional if and when you feel depressed or “off” from the way you typically feel. While some types of “situational depression” may eventually dissipate, major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety can be longer-lasting. And, you may benefit from certain types of medication or therapeutic approaches (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT) to work through a mental disorder.
No matter what, it’s important to be patient with yourself and remember there is hope—and help—to be had.
If you have been searching for a safe and non-judgmental environment for yourself or a loved one for depression due to job loss, Futures Recovery Healthcare has a Mental Health program dedicated to males and females 18 and over struggling with a variety of mental health disorders.
In addition to depressive disorders, we also provide treatment and support for anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar and related disorders. We have an experienced and highly-skilled team able to provide clinical, medical, and psychiatric interventions and resources.
You and your loved one can be on the way to recovery, happiness, and a more peaceful life. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.