Author (Greek version): Manthos Myriounis
Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Translator: Harriet Spala
The financial and value crisis that has hit Greece for so many years now has aided a series of unsolved problems and issues to emerge, which in the previous years we systematically avoided to face and piled them under the “carpet”, while at the same time we did not even assume the financial responsibility nor the structural and cultural cost of these issues as a society. We all, without any exception, preferred to be comfortably tolerant and any irregularity in any personal issue stayed hidden behind a typical “everyone does the same” and we transferred as a society the solutions and the settlement of these unresolved issues to an unknown and undefined tomorrow.
In today’s article I would like to present my view regarding the connection between unemployment and poverty and as a result the consequences both have in people’s psychological well-being that live under these conditions and with these declining as researched by any aspect, facts. In this extremely competitive and capitalistic society that we live our whole lives in, today’s being and human personality is structured and based on his/her employment and his/her financial situation. That is why very often following our full name we add our business title and expertise as a statement and a specific element of our personality! Therefore our employment defines us as human beings and as people in society and of course if its accompanied by a good increasing income, then it can precede our name and surname. Ι shall not object this fact since our employment actually does define our identity to a significant extent and is depicted as our image to the eyes of others but also in our eyes, in other words it affects and shapes our self image.
The role that the professional status of each has in other aspects and expressions in his/her life is very important. The more we have supported and invested in this professional status the highest is the growth of our self-confidence when all is going well or tolerable and the more dramatic it becomes when the professional career collapses, cuts down or even disappears. Therefore, apart the problems we face due to the reduced or nonexistent income, our social confidence collapses and we lose the place we have in society. The way we are treated by the others is changed, our opinion is not as esteemed as it was before and even occasional friends may distance or even disappear from our lives. All this happens of course because we believe more in “to have” rather than “to exist” and in “to show off” rather than “to be”!
Countless researches and many researchers agree the loss of employment can affect us so deeply that the danger of mental disorders increases and a very strong relevance is shown between unemployment and increase of depression, anxiety, use of drugs and antisocial behavior. Generally, mental health and professional status are two terms that not only are mutually affected but also in a large degree interdependent. Most researchers agree that the loss of employment increases the danger of mental disorders and their physical impacts.
Social self-confidence that is connected to employment seems to be a very powerful field of interaction with other people. In fact it’s so powerful that the unemployed, who do not currently work, feel not only socially isolated but also personally incompetent and consider themselves to be totally incapable and unsuitable to be part of the modern social reality! As human relations disappear and the limitation of what you are depending on what you own, isolation appears and a theory that you are incapable to be part of a family and social life, there are no pleasant alternatives or recreational activities, the diet habits are of bad quality and thus basically each person is tied down with invisible heavy chains that act decisively towards the personality evolvement and the exploitation of his/her personal income and talents.
All mentioned aid in the decrease of the already disturbed psyche and it negates the self-confidence and the psychic reserve of forces each of our fellow humans may have. A vicious cycle is created during which unemployment leads to poverty and bad mental health and the aggravation of mental health in unemployment and social exclusion. It is obvious that in today’s living conditions and with labor instability the psychological well-being and mental resilience are so fluid and ambiguous like two ends of a pendulum that can be found on one side and in the blink of an eye be found on the other. This situation is a great challenge for our society and our political system that must demonstrate flexibility and adaptability by developing and renewing society’s defences and it’s social and benefits policy towards a more effective attitude when facing these situations. The politicians must implement and design interventions and solutions on an individual and collective level.
It is clear that the structures and services that have to function in order to enhance mental health, must meet certain criteria. They must be suitable for all ages, all types of education and to be characterized not fragmented but to inspire and guide each of our fellow men to a successive situation, step by step aiming to reactivate and integrate them in the labor market. More specifically, in researches that have taken place it is mentioned regarding their prevalence that mental disorders as well as behavior disorders are presented not in specific population groups, but people of all areas, countries and societies, may appear in both sexes in all aspects of their lives and be present and in urban and rural areas. Τhe perception that there is an over-emphasis of mental disorders in industrial areas over rural areas is wrong.
The contributing factors that increase mental disorders are the speed of social changes, poverty-unemployment, as well as the ageing population. Furthermore, the financial immigrants as well as the refugees contribute to the increase of the population that lives in poverty therefore increased demands of social security and disease prevention are necessary. Confronting this unfavorable situation is a trial and a challenge for our society! In any case without labeling psychiatrically all social phenomena, it could be beneficial not to overcome (exclude) the impact of social problems on people’s mental health.
As mentioned above, it is wise to plan any political interventions in such a way that will positively attribute not only on an individual level but also on a collective level. However it must be pointed out that the unemployment that hits a household and a family is a very serious issue! Let’s explain: The early and adverse experiences as well as the wrong and inadequate feeding of the children may change the structural and functional development of their brain contributing to the negative outcome of their future mental well-being! Consequences can also appear to their knowledge, perception and their whole mental state in general.
A set of structures and services can be realized so that an employment and social safety net can be created. The way to realize this is by state subsidies, employment re-training and though the development of new skills for unemployed, to support people who have a difficulty in adapting after being long-term unemployed, by creating social co-operative organizations for people who have mental disabilities, as well as the use of a set of practices so that the unemployed can return to the labor market easily, and through the introduction of more flexible employment conditions! Besides, in this effort nobody must feel lost, but we should all strive together for the best.
In order to confront the social and financial situation it is important to proceed by securing a minimal level of life for these people and more specifically the most vulnerable and if a simultaneous supporting social net is included, it can support and resume proportionally all the members of a society!
Economou, M., Madianos, M., Peppou, L. E., Patelakis, A., & Stefanis, C. N. (2013). Major depression in the era of economic crisis: a replication of a cross-sectional study across Greece. Journal of affective disorders, 145(3), 308-314.
Frazer, H., & Marlier, E. (2007). Tackling child poverty and promoting the social inclusion of children in the EU: Key lessons. European Commission.