Helping / Living With The Unemployed

If you or someone you know is apathetic about finding employment; really not caring one way or the other if work is found or not, the only way to get them moving is to identify that one thing. “That one thing?”, you ask. Yes, that one thing that makes wanting to find work more meaningful than not caring.

For a family member, friend or professional working with an unemployed individual, this is a tremendous challenge. You are also likely to find that the longer a person has been unemployed, the greater the effort will be to shift their thinking sufficiently to get them started.

Be forewarned, you can’t motivate someone else. Oh you can help them, support them and encourage them, but you cannot motivate someone else to want something they don’t want themselves. All you’ll get if they don’t want it bad enough is a token effort, and the first time they run into a barrier, they’ll pack it in and go back to what was comfortable; not bothering to look. Unfortunately, they may reason that they can be unemployed and struggling to find work or unemployed and taking it easy. For many, a simple choice.

The frustrating part for those around the unemployed person is failing to understand why they’ve become so disinterested and why they seemingly won’t put in the effort to find work. It’s highly likely that there’s been a major shift in their values; and the values they currently hold differ from those around them to such an extent they’ve become difficult to be around. There may be an increase in friction and tension, more arguments, less things to talk about, or the conversation about work might be one they insist is off the table.

There are far too many factors that could be in play in any individual case for me to accurately know what’s behind a person’s apathy, but here’s one possibility that may be going on. After having become recently unemployed, the person took some time to self-heal mentally. This is especially true after having been fired, let go, or quit a job they found problematic. At this point, they wanted to find work, and planned on doing so soon. When they felt ready, they began to look. That period of time to, ‘get ready’ may have been anything from a week to over a year – hard as that might be for someone else to understand.

As this person started to look for a job, they found it harder to get one than they had in the past. Perhaps because of technology and having to use computers to apply online, or having a poor resume, they kept getting nowhere on their applications. Interviews weren’t happening, or when they did, no job offers came. From the person’s point of view, they’ve left a job on bad terms, can’t get interviews, aren’t sure really how to compete against so many other people now applying for the same jobs, and their psychological state is becoming increasingly fragile.

Without being able to articulate what they are experiencing and how they really feel, they retreat rather than engage, and withdraw into themselves. Socializing becomes a huge outpouring of effort and only having so much energy to get through a day, they choose to stay in the relative comfort and safety of their home or a room in their home. This isolation skews their thinking; they become anxious beyond their safety zone, perhaps more irritable and easily frustrated. Whereas they used to be happy and good to be around, they are now a constant source of worry for others and an ever-present and growing concern.

How they see themselves has changed dramatically. Once productive and self-reliant, they had dignity and a healthy view of their ability to provide. Now they feel dependent, reliant on family or friends – and when that dependency becomes too hard to live with, they remove themselves and turn to the broader society at large to support them. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and it’s not uncommon.

Of course they – or you, never used to feel or be this way. Once purposeful and hopeful, things have changed. It’s understandable why so many might self-medicate with alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs. With the ever-present thoughts of failure, disappointment and regret, anything that takes that thinking away, even for a short time is appealing.

Suddenly, just telling someone to get a job and expecting them to respond accordingly doesn’t sound at all realistic. Getting a job is transferring our own value of employment onto this other person who doesn’t share our value system as they might once have done. Yes, they genuinely want work perhaps, but they haven’t the energy, focus, willpower and motivation to make any real progress on their own. None, until that is, they find that one thing that they want more than they want the way things are. And no, you can’t find it for them.

Conversations are good; talk that draws someone out once the trust is established that allows them to go deeper and unload the ‘big’ stuff. Some are never going to work again, some may and others will. All three types will need support however, and the nature of the support they receive will vary depending on the individual.

Sure it’s challenging for family, friends and those who work with this population. Do what you can; know your limitations.

Out Of Work? Get Involved

When I’m running employment workshops, they can last as long as three weeks depending on the particular class. Even then, there’s a week which follows that involves following up 1:1 with each participant, so let’s call them three weeks and a day. One of the great benefits I hear from those participating is that for three weeks, they felt connected to something, and for most, a connection to other adults.

When you think about employment, work does more than just give you a salary in exchange for your labour. Working with others gives you an identity, daily connections with your co-workers, and depending on the organizations culture, it can feel very much like a second family. It’s ironic actually that while most of us never set out to get a job primarily so we can interact with others, it is precisely the loss of this interaction many miss most when they leave a job or retire.

If you’ve got some recently retired friends in your circle, you’ll probably hear them say more than once how they might not miss the job, but they miss the people they worked with. Some who retire miss the contact so much that they take up part-time jobs, why some even go looking for full-time jobs for another year or two. They just weren’t as ready as they thought they were for the severing of these connections.

Now if you’re out of work entirely at the moment and your prospects are not as many as you’d like them to be, you can still find ways to connect to others, and you might need them more than you realize. If you feel isolated and shunning the company of others more than you used to, it could be an indication of some anxiety that’s taken root and starting to grow. Isolating yourself might sound like the logical thing to do – especially if you feel more comfortable at home alone most of the time. However, isolating yourself intentionally can feed that anxiety of being around others, and if left unchecked, it can manifest itself as depression – and I suspect you don’t want to feed your depression.

Now it’s true that it might take some energy to get outside and connect with others again, but it’s worth it. Beyond working, there are a wide number of groups in your community where like-minded people gather to take part and enjoy whatever it is you find stimulating. For you, maybe it’s a woodworking class, a photography night school course, volunteering with the local food bank to help those less fortunate or even meeting up at a mall to join some indoor walking group.

It’s not so much what you do to get connected, but rather that you do something you find enjoyable that gets you connected. The great thing about connecting with others who share a similar interest in something you find enjoyable is that you have something in common to begin the conversations. And no doubt many of you would be wondering otherwise, “What would I talk about? What would I say? Oh it just sounds like a lot of mental effort to talk with people I don’t know.” Of course the longer you’ve been removed from having such conversations, the harder it may seem to start them. And voluntarily putting yourself in the position of talking with other adults may just seem like a lot of work you’d rather not do.

Your reasons for getting involved don’t have to be solely to engage with others. If that alone was your motivation, it wouldn’t matter what you got involved with. No, you could initially decide to get into some activity solely for the benefit of doing something you’d enjoy, and let the dialogue and conversations with others just happen naturally. So yes, maybe you join Friday night mixed curling because the sport is something you enjoy. Not into curling? No problem, maybe you donate your time reading and recording stories with a literacy group for the benefit of those wanting to improve their language skills,

Volunteering by the way is a great way to feel good about yourself and at the same time this investment is something you can and should tag on to your employment resume. It is experience after all, explains what you’re doing while out of work, gives back to your local community, and improves the lives of those who benefit from your works of charity. Selfishly, it also gives you purpose, gives you somewhere to be, you’re counted on again by others to show up just like a job.

Look there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable in your own skin and enjoying your time alone. This is healthy actually. However, interacting with other people is also healthy and natural. You don’t have to end up with a best friend, not everyone you meet has to hear your whole life story, and you don’t have to hang around after your class, volunteer shift, game etc. is over. What you do afterwards is your call. However, you might find yourself actually enjoying being involved to the point where you didn’t realize you missed it as much as you do.

Now the benefit to your search for employment – if you are in fact still looking for work – is that not only do you have an activity to fill a gap of time, you might even make some connections that lead to a paying job!

Depression And, “Hello. How Are You?”

“Hello. How are you?”

Could you ask a more innocent, well-intentioned question? It’s almost automatic; typical of how we greet each other. Oddly enough, those who ask don’t always want to actually know how you’re doing, and those who answer don’t answer truthfully much of the time. Yet, again and again, for lack of a better, well-thought out form of greeting its used time and time again.

It’s true you know. Just pay attention and listen when you’re greeted by someone for one or two days as an experiment. Today being Monday, most of your co-workers will today say, “Hi, so how was your weekend?” Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, they’ll say, “Hi, how are you?”

A couple of days ago I sat down with someone suffering – and suffering is the right word by the way – with depression and poor mental health. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his life-long depression is getting much worse. He told me that one of the things that bothers him more and more is the constant question of how he’s doing; especially from people he knows don’t want to really know.

Are you guilty of this? I know I am and I imagine you are too. I’m not naïve enough to actually believe that 95% of the people around me are fine or good; even though they say so. Sure many of us are good and doing well. However, it must be painful as this fellow says, to be living with depression and constantly asked how you are. He then told me how much his life was being affected. His favourite time of day is when he goes to bed – at 11:00p.m. usually. After lying awake for 2 hours, he sleeps until 11:00a.m., gets up and eats, then sits in front of the television almost the entire day, not going out unless he has to.

Now he’s cut back on family gatherings because so many of those extended family members are going to naturally ask him, “How are you?” and while he could tell them the truth, he knows they really don’t want to know, nor could they help him if they wanted to. Well, aside from stopping the asking of how he’s doing in the first place! So it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed of doing nothing day after day, seeing Life go by without improvement.

This depression has affected his memory too. He’s positive that he can’t be trusted to remember things he’s told, and so for now, work is out of the question. Not to mention the depression has left him little patience in some situations he might meet with the public. All this passive living is affecting his physical as well as mental health too. A lack of exercise has led to weight gain, lower self-esteem, poor stamina.

Yet, to meet with him you’d see a happy fellow, quick to laugh, friendly and knowledgeable about topics of the day. Kind of an Eleanor Rigby type, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Ah look at all the lonely people!”

Now how many people I wonder will you – and I – come into contact today who are similarly suffering from depression? Let’s make that Depression with a capital, “D”. When living with this mental illness, it can affect energy, focus, judgement, motivation, self-perception and it’s not just a quick visit to the doctor to get a quick fix. We’re talking long-term implications.

Sometimes there are medications to help change the chemical make-up of the brain and attempts to stimulate connections through electro-therapy. I’m certainly no expert in treatments although I’ve friends and co-workers as well as many clients and people who use my support and advice in the course of my job. While it’s helpful to listen without judgement, providing reassurance that talking about one’s mental health is okay with me and not a topic I find uncomfortable, it’s frustrating knowing that waiting lists for treatment are long, treatments aren’t always effective, and other than listening, what can I do?

While it’s not necessary to experience what another person is experiencing to be empathetic, sometimes I feel being an empathic listener just falls short really. I suppose though this one’s not about me – or you for that matter. This one is about the person with Depression. If listening with empathy helps them feel understood and helped, maybe that’s something.

Think how difficult it must be on a daily basis for someone living with Depression; post-traumatic or ongoing, anxiety, psychotic or personality disorders, etc. It must be and is for many, debilitating. So maybe when we see some person who appears to be lazy or worse yet able to do fun things but not work, maybe extending some compassion and erring on the side of considering they may have a mental health issue would be preferable to believing them to be sponging off others generosity or tax dollars when their perfectly capable of contributing.

I suppose we might choose to hold our tongue and check our thoughts; for truly, we have no idea to what degree someone might be suffering with and already feeling ashamed of themselves for not being more productive.

So today, instead of, “Hi. How are you doing?” maybe we might say, “Hi. What are you up to today?” or if you do ask how someone is doing, look them in the eye and pause long enough to hear and care what they answer.

The Roles We Play: A Good Exercise

Throughout our personal and professional lives, we take on different roles, becoming more or less important to those with whom we interact. We are a son or daughter to our parents, perhaps a brother or sister if we have siblings. We have been or continue to be students to those who have taught or teach us now. If and when we are employed, we are a colleague, co-worker and employee. Should we be out of work but looking, we are a job seeker.

In our work locations we have different roles of course. In addition to being an employee, we also have a specific job title. We are a Clerk, Sales Representative, Custodian, Labourer or Attendant for example. In addition to these titles, we may be the go-to person for some expertise we possess. We might be in the role of Mentor, Supervisor, Support Staff, Reception, Guide or Leader. Merging these roles we are a Custodial Supervisor, a Reception Clerk or Sales Leader.

Others see us and place varying values on us as individuals in the roles we play. While someone might value us as an indispensable colleague, it’s probable others who hold a differing view of our value. It’s also fair and accurate to say that others perception of us and our role can change over time. Where they saw us as a mentor or tutor in helping them get started, there comes a time when they see us as their equal; their partner or peer. We might come to value our Supervisor over time, changing our view of them and / or their role.

So it is safe to say that we have a number of roles we are simultaneously playing throughout our lives. How often do you pause to consider all the roles you play? Right now; at this present time, you are probably more aware of the role you play (or want to play) with respect to some relationships than you are of others. If you have a child who is expecting their own first child, you may be so excited at your future role of Grandparent, that you share your current role as an Expectant Grandparent. It’s as if you can’t wait for the role to be official, so you create one role that relies on a future event, (the birth of the grandchild) to make your new title and role a reality.

There can be times at work when the role we see ourselves playing, and the role others would like us to play differ. We may be content to play the role of the one who likes to work in isolation and with autonomy. However we may find ourselves being encouraged or assigned the roles of team leader, mentor or advisor. Or where we once worked happily in a large space with walls, we might find ourselves moved to where there are no walls, offices and cubicles, requiring us to be more sociable and engaging. We may have to clarify our role if a chatty person sees us in the role of Socializer and we don’t want that role.

So what does this role awareness do for us? It can be of tremendous value in achieving a measure of happiness if we know a role we want to play, leading us to acquiring the skills, experience and connections we’ll need to make that desired role a reality. So if you come to value the role of leadership and being legitimately seen and valued as a Leader, you look for opportunities to lead, building one experience at a time. You then turn your growing experience as a Leader into greater opportunities citing earlier experiences as your new-found qualifications.

Conversely, if you are unhappy or dissatisfied in your workplace, examining the role you have and the role you’d like might illuminate your discontent. You may wish to be perceived as a Leader, but if your colleagues don’t see you in that role, you may be consistently frustrated or disappointed. If you’ve ever looked at someone and thought, “I’d like to do their job”, or “I’d be good in the role”, you get the idea. What you’re really doing is seeing yourself in another role and realizing your desire for it. If it’s appealing to the point where you want it bad enough, move to position yourself to take advantage. If that role is scary or unpleasant, (as in, “I’d die if I had to give a presentation like they do!”) you’re not going to move in that direction.

A good exercise both individually and in groups is to take a sheet of paper and list all the roles you and others have played both in the past and in the present. We are Customers when we buy, Browsers when we just look. We are Riders on the bus, Residents in our apartments, Clients perhaps with the utility companies, Friends of our friends. Some of us will have short lists, others long lists. Some of us will look at others lists and realize there’s more to add on our own. Knowing our roles can be a boost to our self-esteem, see ourselves as connected and valued, and give us direction as we move next to identifying the roles we’d like to have in the future.

Listing and talking about why future roles appeal to us gives insight into the skills and experiences we may wish to acquire.

Out Of Work And Feeling Down?

At the moment, I’m facilitating an employment workshop with 10 participants. I’ve had 1:1 conversations, ascertaining the reasons they believe they are unemployed. So here I am, now in possession of information from all of them, though I’d hazard I haven’t got all the barriers, just the ones they are open to sharing with me.

Many of their self-declared problems are shared problems; you know, the kind that one would expect to be associated with being out of work for an extended period. Now I’m not going to share who said what, as that would break confidentiality and trust if they identified themselves after reading this piece. However, if I gave them all slips of paper and asked them to write down their issues which they’d share, many of the participants would look at each other and say, “You too?”

Have you been out of work at some point in your life? Maybe you know some of what they have shared then. Should that unemployment period be protracted and become longer than you’d have hoped or expected, your departure from the world of work would result in additional barriers and problems wouldn’t it?

That’s the point really; what you’re feeling is probably exactly the same thing other people in your situation are feeling. You have a shared experience which is long unemployment, and therefore the feelings that go with that long unemployment are naturally the same for most people. It’s not hard to believe that if you started feeling unsure of yourself, some anxiety when it came to going for a job when you haven’t had an interview in a long time and finally, you were feeling somewhat sad or depressed about your plight, others might feel the same way.

Those general kind of feelings wouldn’t be unique to my 10 people. Those are generalities which are shared by a majority of out-of-work folks. It is comforting to know that because other people in your situation feel like you do, maybe you’re not so odd or broken. That phrase, “What’s wrong with me?”, that so many people end up asking themselves is being asked by an awful lot of people.

So? How does that help get you a job? I didn’t say or claim that it would – but keep reading. The benefit of this is that once you realize that other people also feel much the same as what you are feeling, you have to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with YOU. Those feelings you have are sure unwanted of course – but they are a shared normal experience by people in general in response to unemployment and a desire to be working.

There is a struggle going on inside you between what you want and perceive as normal (getting and holding down a job) and your reality (despite my efforts, I’m out of work). If you choose to look at things differently, that’s actually a good sign. Those feelings expressed as, “What’s wrong with me?”, are really internal signals you are sending to yourself, encouraging you to get back to what you perceive as normal; in this case, working.

Once you stop feeling that internal struggle and the brain ceases to say, “What’s wrong with me (that I can’t get a job)”, it may be because you’ve got a, ‘new normal’ which is unemployment and you are actually okay with that status. If you settle in to unemployment and don’t feel anymore stress or anxiety, that isn’t something I’d suggest is a good thing. Your inner self is struggling to change your present reality and knows that paid work will bring you back into balance; this in turn brings you out of sadness, raises your self-esteem and you say, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Work can in fact, resolve many people’s inner imbalances. You’d expect to feel good when you get an employer who calls you up and offers you an interview. Why? Because that call is really validation from someone saying you are wanted and have desirable skills and qualifications sure – but actually it’s because you are hopeful of returning to what you perceive as normal.

Should you actually hear those words, “Welcome to the team, you’re hired”, you’ll feel a weight being lifted. That weight you currently feel is a mixed bag of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, insecurity, financial dependence, constant tension, isolation, etc. So no wonder then that just getting hired brings a smile to your face, your shoulders may physically drop, your forehead stress lines relax, and your self-confidence improves.

All those symptoms and labels we have for what is wrong with us and others is our mind and body’s way of signalling us that something is out of whack. To return to ‘normal’, something needs changing; and in this case it’s unemployment to employed. Okay getting a job doesn’t snap you out of clinical depression overnight anymore than you woke up one morning and went from everything perfect to clinically depressed.

Take faith though; just making an effort to get help with your unemployment is a mental signal which sows the seeds of, “I’m doing something to change my unemployed status and I anticipate success in the near future”. Every bit of improving your resume, cover letter, job searching techniques, interview skills, etc. repairs part of your ‘damaged goods’ mentality and tells you that you are on the road back to ‘normal’. Welcome back.




Feelings of Isolation And Being Left Behind

When you are out of work, many people spend way too much time inside their apartments and homes. This voluntarily exile can and usually will bring unexpected and unwelcomed changes to a person. Your residence, which when you were working was your place of solitude and regeneration, could transform itself little by little into your prison. Ironically, the key to freedom is within your grasp.

So why retreat from the world in the first place when you are out of work? In the beginning, say shortly after you’ve been let go, it seems natural to coccoon yourself away and process what has just happened. You might be in a state of shock, trying to reason out your sudden loss of employment. Even when you saw the writing on the wall months’ ago, it still comes as a blow when you’re told not to come back the following day. It still stings.

And of course there is an element of pride that one has; that sense of identity you enjoyed as an employee of such-and-such firm or company. You might be understandably worried therefore that even a trip to your local coffee shop might raise a questioning eyebrow from someone who would normally expect you to be at work at 9:45 a.m. instead of in your jeans and sweat top ordering your favourite brew. “Hey Dave, what are you doing here you rascal! Lose your job or somethin’?”

If it’s not the coffee shop, you’re perhaps worried that the retired couple across the street who know everything about everybody are starting to get suspicious of your car still parked in the driveway. “Hello David, it’s Milly. Are you alright? Donald noticed your car in the drive. You haven’t lost your job by any chance you poor dear?”

Highly unlikely these situations might happen the first day you are home, but in your mind, that kind of negative thinking puts thoughts there that are destructive and self-defeating. It is true that part of our identity is connected to the work we do and the company we work for. That’s why for example it is so common when meeting new people for someone to ask you early on, “So, what do you do for a living?” Somehow, “Oh I eat, drink and breathe”, isn’t the answer they are looking for.

When you are home, you’d best get use to being comfortable with being alone. It’s quiet in the house; certainly quieter than the workplace. All that chatter that you may have found irritating coming from the hall is gone. The continuous grind and whine of machines, photocopiers, forklifts etc is replaced with the suddenly noticeable hum of the fridge, the furnace coming on and shutting off, and the ticktock of the wall clock. Never noticed those being so loud before.

Of course one of the things that nags at the brain after days start to pass is that somehow the world is moving on and without intending it, you seem to have got off the train. Welcome to ‘Nowhere’. In your mind you keep asking yourself, “How did I get here? Where is here? Is this my final destination? I thought I was headed on up the tracks to, “Somewhere” where I could be, “Somebody”. In this little town of, ‘Nowhere’, am I a ‘Nobody’?

Enough already. Taking some time to process a job loss is essential. Take up to a week if you need it. Yes a week. It’s dangerous to take much longer except in the case of a planned vacation and there are exceptions depending on the stress of the job you held. Get going and get outside. Breathing in some fresh air and going for a walk can help you gain some perspective. You can also rationalize your walk by telling yourself you are getting some exercise, so you’re not ‘wasting’ time.

In that first few days after a job loss, you might do well to start thinking about the things you DO have control over. You can if need be, cut back any expenses not deemed essential. You’re probably saving gas or transit fare just by not going to work so see that as a plus. Apply for whatever employment insurance you might be eligible and do it immediately. Many jurisdictions that will provide you with this only issue it from the day you apply, not the day you lost your job income.

Any projects around the house you’ve been putting off that are cheaply accomplished? Even washing the windows inside and out can help you to later look at them and feel you’ve done something instead of being a reminder that you can’t even do something that simple. These kind of dark thoughts are precursors of depression and are best put in their place pronto. Do the laundry, plan the dinner menu, rake the yard, shovel the drive, replace the dim lightbulbs. Do anything that fills your day.

Ready for the bigger stuff after a few days or a week? Good. Now turn your attention to the job search and getting back in the game. Update the resume, make a few calls, let people know you are looking for work, tell them what happened and do your best to sound positive and hopeful. Trains are constantly taking people from, ‘Nowhere’ to ‘Somewhere’ and you’ve always been a, ‘Somebody’.

Lengthy Unemployment Leads To…

Consider the time when you first needed a job and didn’t have one. Perhaps for illustration sake, we agree this time is when we are in our early to mid twenties, school is over and we start looking for our first full-time job as an adult. Some people are going to get work immediately because they have excellent job searching skills and perhaps know somebody who can get them an interview, which leads to a job offer. Good for them.

There will be too those that get jobs relatively quickly, and some that get job offers after a few months of trying. They will tell you that they were starting to get a little worried because the other people I’ve mentioned got jobs right away and they were starting to feel a little jealous of them and perhaps getting a little discouraged themselves.

Ah but what about the rest of the people who are still looking for work and haven’t received job offers or perhaps even been given interviews yet? These people ARE feeling self-doubt, becoming discouraged and frustrated. They have rent to pay, school loans to repay, socializing needs, food and clothes to buy, and quite frankly might not have been schooled in the art of budgeting.

Instead of being able to focus 100% on a job search, they are forced to give some of their precious attention to their basic needs: sourcing money for food and rent. Without a job to provide the money for these necessities, they undergo an ugly transformation which, rather than all at once, is subtlety changing them in ways they themselves don’t immediately recognize but their friends do.

What their friends and family see is someone quick to become angry, smiling less often, stress lines on their forehead, maybe becoming more reclusive and less eager to show up for get-togethers. And this in turns leads to some friendships ending, fewer contacts, and when get-togethers do happen, there is less and less to talk about because much of the conversation is either about the employed persons job and the people there, or the unemployed person’s job search. It becomes obvious to the employed person that they should talk less about their own job because they don’t want to offend, and the unemployed person doesn’t really want to talk about their ongoing failures. So what’s left?

Lengthy unemployment can then lead to social isolation. And if the unemployment drags on, then the skills the person once had which were up-to-date in the past, are now becoming less and less relevant. Any previous job on their resume, such as a summer job, or part-time employment during school, is also further in the past. Those references they had may be less willing to lend their support, and the weight of their endorsements therefore less valuable.

With increasing isolation, stress of unemployment, few positive results to show for the effort being put forth in a job search, other issues crop up. With dwindling funds, the cell phone minutes can’t be purchased, and now a way for potential employers to contact you is lost. Landlords like money and don’t appreciate tenants that can’t pay their bills and fall behind. So that apartment you are comfortable in; the one place you can relax – well you’re threatened or faced with eviction for non-payment of rent. Well this certainly is a depressing situation isn’t it?

Depressing? Absolutely. You’ve identified the big danger that all this spirals into:. Depression. Wouldn’t you rather read a blog about puppies, sunshine and fairy dust? You the reader can of course: just stop reading on and go look for another blog. But for the person dealing with depression, it’s very real, it’s very present, and it’s not as easy to overcome.

This period of depression also means that at some point the whole job search thing has gone from being done 100% of the time to not at all. Some people with full-blown depression can’t even force themselves to get up out of bed, or if they do, it’s only to move to the couch where they close their eyes. Not very realistic to expect this person to pull themselves together and start intensively looking for work.

For those with chronic long-term unemployment there are supports which can be accessed and while they differ from area to area, they include mental health counselling, employment counselling, medical intervention, psychiatric treatment, social assistance for rent and food, food banks, support groups etc.

It may be that those services described above are not even on the radar screen of someone who needs them most. After all, we don’t typically get told about where all these services are in our community until we need them. And if you’ve never used such help, you might see asking for help as further proof of your failure.

My advice reader, is to look at asking for help not as a weakness but as a sign of strength. There’s some part of you inside that wants – AND DESERVES – to have a job if you want it, to use your skills, be appreciated, be valued, be loved and be connected to others. Asking for help and motivating yourself to go to an appointment, see a doctor or attend a support group is one of the first few steps to regaining your self-esteem, liking yourself again, and feeling good about yourself.

And if employment seems too much to handle, think about volunteer work for now. You’re contributions will be appreciated and so will you!

Understanding the “Why?” in Suicide

There are thankfully, fewer and fewer subjects that are still taboo. Suicide is one of those dark subjects that seems to be okay to think and talk about openly as long as it’s not you personally that’s had to deal with one in the immediate family. Is this what you believe? Or do you think that this was how people thought long ago and now things have changed to the point where people talk more openly about things?

So then let me ask you this: If you were next to someone who was talking about someone who committed suicide, how comfortable would you be joining in? Worse yet and far more personal, if someone told you directly they couldn’t take life anymore and were going to end it all, would you have the slightest idea what to say?

When I’ve been close enough to have someone open up about contemplating suicide, a number of triggers immediately get set into motion. One of the first things I think about is trying to discern how real the possibility of suicide actually is, how imminent or is it just a thought in passing quickly dismissed. What if I think it’s not imminent and this is the last attempt at reaching out for help? And I take someone talking to me about the subject as possibly a person who needs help without asking. Are they looking for reasons to live? Crying out for intervention or hope? Are they seeking attention or are things so utterly hopeless that it is the release that they seek?

And sooner or later, whether it’s at this stage of the conversation or hearing about it long after, the inevitable question of, “Why?” arises. For some people the question can eventually be answered and for others, the question will go unanswered for all time, and the pursuit of a rational answer to explain it can never be found. And accompanying the question of, “Why?” is the question, “Is there something I could have done to prevent it?”

Such detailed examination of the past is usually not all that productive. “Was it something I said?” “I should have seen the signs.” “If only I had been there he or she would have listened to me!” Don’t beat yourself up. You are entitled to your life and to live it in joy, happiness and to find fulfillment. Unfortunately, while every other person has the same entitlement, there have been and will continue to be some who will never experience the happiness and contentment and cannot deal with the demons that assail them.

I have penned thoughts on suicide before in this blog, and were you to read back issues of this blog, you might find those words. So why go through this topic again? Time and audience is the answer. Time because you the reader may know someone intimately who is contemplating bringing about their own death in the near future and may have come to this blog only recently. And audience because as my audience grows there will be some for whom these words resonate that have not the knowledge that they’ve been here before. And if a life; one life only, is saved until death comes naturally in the future, then I am happy to address this again.

And now the connection between unemployment and suicide. Understand that anyone who is out of work should be monitored closely by those closest to them, and that it is our responsibility – yours and mine – to ensure that we don’t presume someone else will keep connected to them and check in on them. I’ve been out of work in my past, and few things are worse than the immediate and poignant silence that comes about when friends retreat and go into silence. When people fail to talk to us because they are afraid they don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter you see. No, just carrying on conversations, conversations about the news of the day, the weather, sports, politics, etc. – the normal stuff – keeps people feeling normalized.

You don’t have to be a Counsellor and deal with preserving someone’s mental health. You don’t have to be a compassionate Social Worker and know all the community agencies. You don’t have to be a trained Medical Practitioner and ‘fix’ their physical health. What you can be is available. “Hey want to meet for a coffee?” “Interested in coming over and watching a movie?” “I’m heading out to watch the kids play hockey. Want to come?” Simple everyday stuff, no training required.

If you act now and keep friends and family connected and involved, you’ll never question what you could have done to prevent a suicide. And to be entirely blunt and sincere, when listening to someone who has had a close friend or family member commit suicide, I don’t put much effort caring for the person whose gone – because they are gone. I invest the time and care in compassionately being concerned about the person talking – are they are risk of depression or worse?

Do what you can now, let go of the pain and the recrimination. You have a life to live and that’s a precious thing not to be fully lived.

Giving Up On Finding A Job? Know What You’re Throwing Away

As human nature goes, we tend to go out of our way to get involved and do things that we find pleasurable and enjoyable. The opposite is also true, and we generally avoid doing things that we find unrewarding, difficult and stressful. So it’s no surprise that for most of us, continuing to put a lot of enthusiasm into a job search becomes harder and harder if the results we expect and hope for don’t materialize.

After a period of time, (and it will vary from person to person) you may become so frustrated and annoyed with getting little if any positive results from a job search, that the temptation to just pack it in and quit looking becomes pretty attractive. Instead of a lecture attempting to convince you to keep looking, I just want to illuminate the consequences of making a decision to stop seeking employment. You are an adult and can decide for yourself your course of action and have the right to choose.

To begin with, making a decision to quit looking for work, when you previously were engaged in trying to find a job is an admission of failure and it’s important to consciously recognize that. Failure in and of itself isn’t actually a bad thing though, and it’s important to also recognize this truism. Just as an Inventor fails and fails numerous times before eventually reaching success, each one of those failures provides a lesson; a tidbit of information that suggests doing something different, or a combination of different things to arrive at the desired result. So be brave enough, and wise enough, to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’ve failed” and think about why.

Along with failure, it’s only natural to tie in your self-esteem. When we fail, we tend to personalize the situation. “I’ve failed, I feel bad”. There are essentially two different responses having to do with self-esteem that can be associated with failure. One is to acknowledge failure and have lower self-esteem because you didn’t really put all that much effort into it in the first place. The second is to fail, but because of the sincere full-time effort you put in, you can actually feel higher self-esteem because your failure is for reasons beyond your control, not within your control. You can’t control the economy, the number of people competing for a job, the hiring decision, but you can control your attitude, effort and influence hiring decisions.

Unless you replace your daily activities with other things that bring you satisfaction and engagement, you will also be throwing away purpose. Purpose manifests itself in statements like, “I should be doing something”, “I don’t know what to do with myself”, or questions like, “Is this all there is?”, “What will I do with myself today?” A job gives you a reason to get up, get dressed, get out, get doing something productive that provides meaning to you personally. A job search if done correctly, provides that daily structure until it’s replaced with paid employment. If you pack in the job search, what will you replace it with?

Without a job, unless you have a healthy severance package, you will find money might be running out faster than you’d like. Money translates into social inclusion such as when we go out with friends dancing, for dinner, to movies, rock concerts, travel, shopping etc. Without money, you might find invitations to get together to do things steadily drops because people know you are financially strapped. The consequence is isolation.

You may also find that unintended, unsought and unwelcome feelings start seeding themselves in your consciousness. Over time you become depressed, experience social anxiety, become ill-at-ease in public spaces, doubt your abilities, label yourself as a loser, an idiot, dumb, stupid, a reject. All of these dark thoughts can, unless checked, lead to mental illness, and if they go far enough, to acts of self-mutilation and suicide.

But let’s back up before we go too far down that dark corridor. This piece is best intended for you the person out of work who is considering giving up; and while anyone might benefit from the content, you’ve got the power to decide on your immediate course of action. The responsibility is entirely yours, and yours alone as to whether or not you continue to job search with vigor and hope, or you opt to throw up your hands and give up. While this may seem daunting and overwhelming, look ahead to the day you land your next job, and imagine looking back to this very day – today – when you made a choice to re-energize your job search. It will be the decision YOU made that you can credit for future success.

Because job searching involves so many things; resume writing, interview skills, employer research, exploring career options, applications, follow-up calls, skills assessments, cover letters, networking, social media presence, temporary agencies, recruiters, references etc., don’t try to do it all in a day.
Start with small steps you can accomplish and then acknowledge your accomplishment no matter how small. Avoid saying things like, “Yeah but I still don’t have a job”. Say, “I’m one small step closer to finding a job”.

Depending how frustrated and stressed you are, it might take a little or a long time to turn things around. If Life is beating you up, my advice if you are open to it, is to avoid what seems easiest which is to quit. The harder thing to do is rekindle that small single flame of hope, purpose and self-respect and slowly fan it into a flame of pride, accomplishment and joy.