In the last few months, I have had several wives call Career Counseling Connecticut on behalf of their husbands. The stories are reasonably similar. Their husbands had career paths, often with large companies, and were laid off either due to companies leaving Connecticut or due to what has become the normal restructuring mode of all companies. In each case, the wives never mentioned their own worries about economic security but rather each focused on their worries related to their spouse’s mental health.
70% of the suicides in this country are committed by middle-aged men. I was stunned by that percentage. But I also know from basic psychology that men tend not to ask for help, suffer silently, and then, if they are prone to do something drastic, take real, as opposed to attention-seeking, action.
I then recalled that the first suicide that affected me: the father of one of my high school classmates. By all accounts, he was a great guy with a solid family. But this was the 1980s when not having a job was stigmatizing for all men but particularly middle-aged men supporting families. I don’t know the circumstances of his layoff. But he was unemployed for 9 months, I almost can’t believe it wasn’t longer. He sank into a depression and couldn’t pull himself out of it. I would like to think that being laid off does not have the stigma of the past. But I also know that a large percentage of those present day suicidal middle-aged men would not be ruminating if they were engaged in a meaningful career.
In some of my recent Career Counseling Connecticut meetings with men in this situation, I see men who mask their anxiety with dark humor – “my family would be better off if they get my life insurance”- seems to be the most common line. The worry today for most forty and fiftysomethings is that they will never get hired again. Sadly, they may be right if they have limited themselves to getting hired only for high paying salaried full time jobs with benefits. But there is plenty of work out there and with the right understanding of the market, they will work again as many of my career counseling clients have happily discovered.
If you know anyone who might be prone to depression due to a work lay off, pay careful attention. Get them the help they need.