by Meridith Levinson

Unemployment’s Emotional Toll: Why Everyone Should Care

Mar 25, 2010

Even if you have a job, you should understand the far-reaching impact unemployment has on people. It could easily be you one day

Yesterday I published two stories on unemployment’s emotional toll. In Can You Survive Unemployment?, IT executives who are currently or were recently out of work describe how unemployment upended every aspect of their lives, from their daily routines to their feelings of self-worth. In Unemployed? 10 Tips for Fighting Depression in Your Job Search, many of the same executives shared the tactics they use to stave off depression in merciless job hunts. 

When I began interviewing sources for these stories in early February, I had several goals in mind. First, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a topic that I hadn’t seen addressed much by career journalists, bloggers (with the exception of Jason Alba who wrote about his experience with depression during his job search) and coaches. I hoped the stories I was developing would help unemployed people, who may be feeling depressed for the first times in their lives, to know that they’re not alone and that much of what they’re experiencing is normal. In addition, I wanted to share some tips for preventing–or coping with–depression during a job search and unemployment. 

As I spoke with unemployed executives, I realized that the stories I was reporting were as important for employed people to read as unemployed people. After all, you never know when you’re going to end up with a pink slip in hand. I thought reading about unemployed people’s experiences might inspire people who still have jobs to take measures now to mitigate future emotional (and financial) fallout from unemployment.

I also wanted employed people who’ve never previously experienced job loss to get a clear sense of what it’s like to be unemployed so that they don’t treat unemployed people like pariahs. When you meet someone who’s unemployed, don’t ask them how long they’ve been unemployed or how their job search is going. Ask them what they’re looking for and how you can help.

I don’t know if my stories will accomplish any of the lofty goals I set out to achieve. I hope they do, and I hope people will read these articles despite their depressing subjects.