The effects of being laid off or fired are no trivial matter.
In fact, the effects may last years or even decades, and in a worst-case scenario could lead to suicide or homicide.
The seriousness of the emotional and physical impact should not be minimised, according to a local pastoral counsellor who has initiated a support group to help address issues associated with job loss.
“I’ve been part of a support group myself over the years, and it’s good to know you’re not alone, that there are others going through it together,” said Cathy Gomez.
Regarding sudden job loss, she said, “The first thing is to not panic. Really assess your situation in terms of finances, pay attention to your diet and exercise, allow yourself time to grieve – it is a loss, exercise positive thoughts, keep a journal and seek reemployment as soon as possible.”
Ms Gomez can empathise with those who find themselves suddenly unemployed. She was ‘let go’ after nearly 32 years at her job and “given one-and-a-half hours to get out.” At the time, she was studying for her master’s degree and made the most of her circumstances by using the subject for her thesis and a subsequent book.
Recently she has been contacted by a number of people who have either been laid off or mistreated at work. Sometimes, she said, employees are given “constructive dismissal,” which is a euphemism for “being set up to fail.”
Regardless of the circumstances of the dismissal, the effects may be quite similar.
“People who lost their job 20 years earlier still suffer emotional effects,” she said. “Usually it’s about the way it happened, not why it happened.
“The emotional effects should never be minimised,” she said.
She also pointed out that the person’s immediate family may be affected as well, just as they would be by any other type of emotional stress.
Another effect, she said, could be feelings of a lack of self-worth.
“One girl [told me] she felt like she couldn’t do anything after [losing her job],” Ms Gomez said.
Based on her research, Ms Gomez said those who are dismissed may feel anger or sadness, bitterness, pain, fear, frustration, helplessness or develop low self-esteem.
Research also shows, however, that “people who journal are apt to find a job sooner and better deal with it,” she said.
For those who know someone who has faced job loss, the best approach is to listen, Ms Gomez said, and be supportive by allowing people to express their feelings, and for the listener to respect the other’s feelings.
Her best advice for anyone who has lost a job is to stay positive.
“Don’t give up … keep positive and reach out to help other people,” she recommends.
The support group she organised is meant to be more of brainstorming session among attendees, and hopefully a springboard for a networking group.
“I hope they’ll pull ideas out of the group as to what they would like to see happen,” she said. “I’d like to see them help themselves as much as possible.”