John C. Wolfe, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: John is a specialist in male depression and in Imago couples counseling. John had some advice for helping your man cope with the emotional ups and downs of unemployment.
- When men are laid off from work they become vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
- Recent data indicates that nearly 82% of lay-offs in the workforce involve men, primarily due to the high volume of men who are employed in manufacturing and construction trades. Many men are reluctant to admit to their fears and anxiety about their future either before or after being laid off from their jobs.
- Fathers become less playful, more preoccupied and spend more time alone.
- Men may lose their sense of humor, withdraw sexually and isolate from their wives. If their wives become the sole breadwinner, it can cause not only low self-esteem, but marital strife. Even divorce.
Men often find it difficult to talk about their feelings and end up repressing their emotions. This is acutely felt by their partners, family and children. Repression can only last so long and can erupt as anger, becoming critical of others, demanding, brooding, apathy, loss of energy and a host of behaviors which left without intervention can cause serious problems for your husband, brother or father.The depression can cause a downward spiral as men stop doing what they should to take care of themselves. They eat and sleep poorly, and discontinue exercise and recreation.
What can you do to help your unemployed partner?
Keep the ‘window of communication’ open as much as possible. Try to be subject-specific when asking how his day went. Try to encourage him to join you in exercise or other activities. He doesn’t have to train for a marathon or hit the road at 5:00 am everyday; a brisk twenty minute walk once a day is a good start.
If the wife has become the sole bread winner, face the situation head-on. Risk an open conversation on how he may be feeling about that change in roles (or at least the dominant cultural roles).
Encourage him with surprises which you know he’ll appreciate: a favorite meal; support him to engage in his favorite activity or hobby; plan a night out, it doesn’t have to be expensive but rather time together is the most important thing.
Remember to check in with him as to how his general health is as well as encourage him to see his doctor, a therapist or counselor. Many employers offer employee assistance programs which he can utilize at no cost.
Don’t be complacent when it comes to taking the initiative to extending your help, understanding and support during this difficult time for him. Men are often reluctant to disclose or share their inner conflict, shame and vulnerability. Be patient yet vigilant in your interest and caring. Let him know that he’ll get thru these difficult times with the support of those who care most about him. He’ll appreciate you more for helping him appreciate himself.