- Increased risk for mental health challenges
- Job loss and unemployment put individuals and their families at increased risk for mental health challenges and substance misuse. Mental health challenges related to job loss and unemployment are driven by financial stress, decreased self worth, changes in routine, and lack of social contact.
- Depict empathy through storytelling
- Storytelling can help reduce the harmful impact of job loss and financial stress by demonstrating the importance of looking out for loved ones after they lose a job, spotlighting the need for better transition support after job loss, and demonstrating the protective power of self-care and connection during periods of unemployment.
Show Conversations About Mental Health and Help-Seeking
- Portray families having open and honest conversations about job loss and unemployment. Job loss impacts the entire family. However, children might struggle emotionally when a parent is unemployed due to increased tension and uncertainty. Open conversations can support mental health, both for the individual experiencing job loss or unemployment, as well as their family. It is important to highlight these discussions taking place with children of varying ages, with the children’s voices and emotions being central to the conversation.
Spotlight Support from Friends and Family
- Show friends and family members proactively stepping up to fill voids left after job loss. The loss of social connection and routine are two factors that can negatively impact mental health after a job loss. Showing characters or cast members offering support, instead of tiptoeing around the issue, may encourage audience members to do the same.
Depict Effective, Realistic Help-Seeking and Treatment
- Spotlight the reality that unemployed people and those living below the poverty line are often unable to access effective mental health care when they need it most. People may not understand how difficult it is for those struggling financially or living in poverty to access effective mental health treatment.
- Showing the difficulties and injustices in the mental health system can inspire advocacy for reform. Be careful not to overdramatize these problems for entertainment value, but do offer an honest portrayal of the systemic problems that prevent people experiencing financial hardship from getting support.
Highlight the Power of Coping Skills and Self-Care
- Show characters or cast members who have lost their jobs create routines, maintain social networks, and find purpose outside of work. For many of us, our identity is linked to our occupations and careers. Showing people finding purpose and staying active outside of work may help viewers think of better ways to cope with the emotional challenges of unemployment.
- Qualitative research indicates that people with stronger coping skills and support networks prior to job loss experience fewer mental health challenges than individuals without those protective factors, so if your storyline is set in a workplace, it could be powerful to show how your characters or cast develop stronger coping skills and support network within a professional context.
- Highlight skills and strategies outside of treatment that characters can use when traditional methods of mental health become less accessible. (Mindfulness, for example, could be a good strategy to spotlight.)
Today, the mental health impacts of job loss or unemployment are likely to be significant, with research linking unemployment to anxiety, depression, and loss of life satisfaction. The economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges, across households around the world. Data shows those who are unemployed have higher rates of mental health challenges than those who are employed, and report being less satisfied with their lives and relationships. The longer people experience unemployment, the more likely they are to report mental health struggles.
One of the main factors driving mental health challenges among those experiencing job loss or unemployment are financial worries, which are a leading cause of stress for Americans and can contribute to chronic health problems and mental health conditions. In general, poverty may increase the likelihood of experiencing a mental health condition or substance misuse, and can affect children’s long-term mental health.
In addition to the financial strain of job loss, a recent study identified loss of time structure, social contact, status, and identity as significant factors in emotional distress for people who lose their jobs. People who lose their jobs in mass layoffs, like in the COVID-19 pandemic, may be at increased risk for emotional distress and suicide. Experts speculate this is caused by lessened job prospects and a strained support network because other friends and family members are also struggling with similar challenges.
Job loss can also impact family stability and adolescent development, and children in families experiencing job loss sometimes struggle emotionally. Studies show a significant link between unemployment and child neglect, which can affect performance and behavior at school. Extended unemployment of a parent can also derail a young person’s college aspirations.
Unfortunately for most Americans, job loss often means losing health care insurance, making mental health care hard for those who are unemployed and potentially in dire need of it. Even if they still have insurance or access to services, mental health care may remain expensive and they might be forced to choose between basic necessities and treatment.
Facts & Stats