This article below was in a facebook book group called Human Reform politics. It is scary. And it is powerfully real. There are people out there that are foolish and cause their own misery when it comes to maintaining a job. There are more people out there, though by many that have lost employment by market forces beyond their control, medical crisis, or other serious misfortunes that but for the “grace of God” could happen to you or me. (Actually, if you believe in a compassionate God, what happens to your brother is happening to you, and you should give be concerned and alarmed as if it did happen to you – for it has harmed your neighbor).
There is a clear link between economic status and decline in Behavioral Health (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0063-2). For those of us that are gainfully employed, we prefer to not see those who have fallen “off the radar” as readily employable and are now in the throes of an acute and prolonged mental health or substance abuse crisis. They are no longer seen as vibrant people with valuable skills who, on another day, were just like you and me.
The health care field recognizes the importance and the influence of “social determinates” on the onset of behavioral health as well as its duration. Therapy and medications do not provide the self-worth that comes from gainful employment, a role in society, a roof over your head, and access to our cultural life.
Some studies show evidence that involuntary job loss increases the risk for mental health decline, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, shortened life, and suicide. It is a driver of our opioid epidemic here in the United States as well.
Let us not be too quick to judge the unemployed or marginalized in our society. Their suffering is our suffering. Their fall is our fall. Despite our economy in the United States being claimed as the “best economy ever,” access to living-wage jobs and job security is threatening the vibrancy of middle-class America every day. That fear is a wedge driving walls between us, the haves and have nots, the established and newcomers. While Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” has no applicability here, I hear and see this image and imagine a man in his 50’s facing an economic crisis at the hands of a mega-industry shift. The alienation and shame, the aloneness, the summation of childhood dreams, and adult realities come crashing into my mind.
Take a moment and recognize it is your brother on the other side of the wall. It is you – looking into a mirror at what could be your future in the blink of an eye.
Unemployment as a raw number is down. That does not help those that are in its grasp. Underemployed is up. Both can lead to financial devastation. Our economies do not support work-life balance and long-term security here in the United States due in large part to our economic system that is built to distribute wealth and resources massively disadvantages the majority in favor of the few. It simply can be better.