Unemployment Can Hurt Your Mental Health – Here’s How To Handle It

Dr Kieran KennedyBy Dr Kieran Kennedy.
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THE QUESTION: I was the main breadwinner in our family, but three months ago I lost my job due to COVID. Since then, I’ve applied for a bunch of positions and haven’t got a single interview. I’ve always worked and it’s been very demoralising – I’m in my mid 40s and it’s hard not to feel kind washed up. But I’m also getting really worried about our family’s financial situation. The idea of not being able to support my family makes me sick. I know I need to try and stay strong for my wife and kids, but right now I’m struggling to put on that brave face. I’ve been getting really down. Please can you wave a magic wand for me or, failing that, offer some positive suggestions. HM


The Expert: Dr Kieran Kennedy,
Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident

It’s a really tough time right now for men and particularly for fathers. There still is that sense of expectation from society of dads being the breadwinner and looking after the family. But with all the economic and work-related impacts of COVID, there are going to be some real pressure points when it comes to mental health.

The first thing for you to acknowledge that it’s actually really normal and okay to just feel pretty shit about everything right now. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. Remember this isn’t a failure on your part. It isn’t about anything that you have or hasn’t done.

When it comes to depression and stress, locking in the basics can help. It’s stuff that’s been publicised in the media a lot lately, but looking after your sleep, making sure you’re getting some physical activity in every day, establishing a daily routine for the day – nailing all those basics will help protect your mood as much as possible.

But what I’d really, really encourage you and anyone that’s starting to feel in a tight spot to do is to reach out to someone earlier rather than later. If you’re starting to get to the point where some of these stressful things are making your mood feel consistently low, if you’re starting to feel your energy’s flat, if you’ve lost all motivation, those are some of the warning signs that clinical depression might be starting to creep in.

So I’d encourage anyone in that position to make an appointment and just go and chat with their GP. Just chatting it out with a professional – someone with whom all those family pressures and emotional attachments aren’t impinging on the conversation – even that can prove quite helpful to diffuse things and help you keep a check on things. But they can also potentially assess whether you could do with a bit more help, too. Because when you’ve lost your job and are facing financial strains and stresses, the impact on your mental health is really, really hard.