Job Searching and Suicide

Lovely topic for today eh? If the topic is a little uncomfortable, I’m sorry for that, but that doesn’t change the fact that for a number of people looking for work unsuccessfully, suicide crosses their mind as a way to escape the pain and feelings of failure.
Just a job brings an individual pride, identity and independence, so too does the absence of work bring many, shame, loss of identity, dependence and utter depression. For many, the initial loss of a job is not seen as such a catastrophic calamity because the psyche still feels that employment is soon to be had. As the period of unemployment stretches out, the stress of being unable to provide for oneself or one’s family grows. Loss of self-esteem and self-respect are ever-present, and with doubt mounting continually, it’s only natural and to be expected that the most buoyant among us will start to lose steam and start to give up.
The thing that really drives some people to despair is that the capacity to deal with this continual assault on one’s self-perception is weakened if there is no hope, no break in the continual pressure. While seeking professional help is an excellent course of action; Doctor’s, Mental Health Counsellor’s and Employment Advisor’s, unless there is an observable and very real change in the person’s reality, the depression continues. When coming into contact with one of these professionals, people do initially experience some small measure of hope, trusting that the person may be able to help them in some way because they are seen as the professional. However, if the solution the client has in mind is an interview followed by a job offer, and no interview or job offer materializes, the person might feel that while the intentions of the professional are appreciated, it still hasn’t translated into anything concrete.
In these days following Christmas and a time of general bliss and merriment when the world is apparently experiencing comfort and joy, such people are feeling anything but. Just yesterday I was speaking with a fellow who has been out of work for a third straight year. With the passing of 2012, it serves as a reminder of this, rather than what most of us look at as a new year, a new chapter, and new things to get excited about. To the unemployed, it may just be another year to dread, another year to count as being out-of-work, and with it, another year of branding themselves as a failure.
This is why we, as professionals who work with the unemployed must in my opinion, be sensitive to the extreme in how we converse with our clients. Do we gaily laugh and talk of our exciting New Year’s Eve parties, and the lovely gifts we got at Christmas in proximity of our clients or the clients of our peers? Perhaps something as innocent as being overheard to talk about getting together with our families is nothing more than a painful reminder to that person of their own isolation and abandonment from their own family who sees them as a loser and someone to avoid.
Of course, we are entitled to live our lives productively, and to share with our co-workers and others our joys, our laughter, our happiness. If we didn’t, we would be robbing ourselves of engagement and happiness in the workplace; which would as a result become more stale and stagnant. However, we might do well to remember that those who are out-of-work may not appreciate fully our gaiety, and while they are happy we had a good Christmas, or had some happy event, maybe we just need to downplay it a bit in their presence. Empathy and sensitivity in practice in other words.
Some people will experience profound grief and despair with unemployment, only magnified by the long cold winters, the darkness and the contrast with the life they expected and hoped to be living at this point in their lives. Be on the alert to those with whom you come into contact with. Having a ready list of contacts handy to pass along may be appreciated, but even more, just a friendly ear might be welcomed.
And if you are saddened, in some way affected by the open sharing of a client who is nearing making some final decision, consider yourself lucky. Lucky? Yes lucky? The reason of course is twofold; you are someone they trust enough to open up to, and secondly, if you are affected that means you still have the precious gift of empathy and sensitivity. Tune in to the words and non-verbal signals your clients provide. If you are affected so negatively in some way that you find it hard to concentrate, speak with your Supervisor or get help if you have an Employment Assistance Program at work.
All the very best to you in your work today!


2 thoughts on “Job Searching and Suicide

  1. Really moving account. I’m heartened to see that there are indeed other professionals in employment services that recognises the impacts on job seekers self esteem, identity and typically. on anxiety levels. Anxiety with regard to finances and social dislocation (perceived or real) often morph into full blown depression. I’ve seen it occur far too often. Even just a little bit of support and a sign of respect for people dealing with theses challenges can make a huge difference.

    Thank you for being the first person I’m aware of to acknowledge this issue and the various associated impacts.
    Caroline Ford
    Melbourne Australia 🌷


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