You can save a life

depression-worker349x442He looked like he had the strength of an ox. Wide, muscular shoulders, thick thighs and corded neck made his sitting figure seem far too still and compliant. The gray hairs over his ears and peppered among the black of his moustache and eyebrows appeared more a sign of his years of struggles than of his age.

I’d seen him at work years ago, saw his back hunched in effort to pull pallets of product onto the store’s floor, watched him pull far more pallets out than any of his coworkers; and though his eyes would smile, he never stopped to talk.

When he came in to my office last week, I finally understood why. He stutters, and he is barely literate. It took awhile, but he explained his circumstances. He had a job that is now only working him one day a week, and he is about to become homeless.

At the end, he looked at me and fought with himself awhile before he finally dared to say, “I am thinking of ending it. There is nothing left.”

It is taking far longer now than it ever has historically to recover from an economic downfall. It used to be that the unemployed would find work way before unemployment insurance benefits ran out, but not this time. Based on wages earned during the first 4 of the last 5 quarters, what is happening now is that the unemployed are running out of benefits and extensions and running completely out of hope. One out of ten people are unemployed, and within a few short months, not only will they be jobless, they will also have no income whatsoever.

There are just as many blue collared, under educated laborers as there are white collared, educated management type people that are in this same situation. It is not more black people than white, more old than young, nor more long-term employees than temporary. The trend is to cut out of the workforce any person who is making more money than someone willing to do the job for less. People are fired for ridiculous reasons such as saying “You have to CYA” to a coworker, without even saying “ass” out loud. He meant it, so he was terminated and immediately replaced by someone who agreed to do the same work for minimum wage. Considering that he was a health care worker, the ramifications are staggering.
The horror stories are endless, and it will become much, much worse during the third and fourth quarters of this year.

The stress of losing a job is astronomical, and right up there with divorce and loss of a loved one. It puts an incredible strain on all interpersonal relationships and threatens the very basic ability to meet even the most basic of needs. A person who has lost his job, whether laid off or terminated, emotionally navigates the same stages of grief that is usually associated with death of a spouse or child.

Become familiar with and know the signs of depression as listed in the sidebar. Keep a good tab on your own feelings and be open to the feelings of those closest to you. Be ready to take action if the need arises, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You could save a life.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK


  1. As a social worker, I totally understand. When I leave Yellowstone, I am thinking of turning my blog to the individual stories of people in Ohio who have lost their jobs and tell their story. I think they want the world to know what has happened to them.

  2. That's a great idea, Judy. I think the world needs to know what is going on with this. It's not like we're agrarian and can exist without making money, and when there's no options left, then what?

    Let me know when you have things up and running.

  3. It's so sad what is happening. Here in the NEK, we lost one Stephen Huneck, a very famous artist who also owned "Dog Mountain." He became depressed when he had to lay off his staff and took his life. One of many stories of despair. So much stress everyone has as they try to survive.