A CBT look at the negative effect of unemployment on mental health…

The psychological impact of protracted unemployment can be devastating and possibly permanent.

Losing a job often also means the loss of: structure, certainty, routine, security, social networking, a sense of contributing/belonging, confidence, and ultimately hope

And never having had a job, and living with unemployment, especially in disadvantaged areas, often creates a state of low (or no) expectations and motivations, and low employability skills – and damages mental health, creating barriers to employment or further education through (unrecognised and untreated) anxiety.

Some people can better cope with adversity than others – there are no rules with exactly whose stress will become an actual disorder – it can hit anybody, and is increasingly hitting larger and larger percentages of our population. The Irish Mental Health Commission, and The EU, and The World Health Organisation have all released reports with strong statistics showing the negative effect of the recession on nation psychological health and wellbeing. They state that there is of course a huge economic and societal cost for this situation – and that it creates a barrier to re-entry to employment or training that common sense suggests should be addressed before other services are taken up.

Let’s take a look at a simple diagram of a typical cycle when stress becomes an actual disorder:

Then a ‘vicious circle’ is established…


You can see that when somebody has that shift in thinking, but the core thoughts and beliefs seem perfectly reasonable and rational to them, that they will have extreme distress and self sabotaging behaviour that will prevent them getting back into the life of work – be that an actual job, or retraining, or volunteering, or self employment, or whatever? It’s not a case of them ‘snapping out of it’ – it’s very real, and needs to be recognised, addressed, and accepted in practical terms by government.  Most people do not realise what has happened, and they are not diagnosed and do not seek any kind of treatment – they simply think that this is how it is, and how they are. And yet it’s basic psychology 101…

: A mental illness can be defined as a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning. As with many diseases, mental illness is severe in some cases and mild in others.

Extract from The World Happiness Report commissioned by the United Nations:
“When people become unemployed they experience sharp falls in well-being, and their well-being remains at this lower level until they are re-employed. The estimated effect is typically as large as the effect of bereavement or separation, and the unemployed share with these other experiences the characteristic of ceasing to be needed. The Appendix to this chapter documents that unemployment reduces well-being in all the datasets analyzed. It also shows that the main impact of unemployment on well-being is not through the loss of income, but rather through loss of social status, self-esteem, workplace social life, and other factors that matter.”

youthunemployedwhatnextExtract from the Sharma ‘Well-being of youth: impact of unemployment’ study: “To conclude, the results give a clear picture that unemployed youth experience more anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction with one’s present life,  strain, negative self-esteem, hopelessness regarding the future and other negative emotional states like inadequacy and feelings of worthlessness that further has a devastating impact on their physical health due to their negligent attitude and overall stress level. This further affects their overall general well-being, meaning thereby that unemployment causes poor mental health…”

So… it is incontrovertible fact that unemployment has a negative effect on psychological health, which itself becomes a barrier to employment or further education – and creates an inability to move forward.

Furthermore, if the sufferer does get a placement or job, they may have lost many basic coping and social skills (employability skills), and may find it hard to retain the job, and/or perform adequately – and the job may cause an acceleration in anxiety.

The following is information to make the case for ‘job ready’ training to remove subjective barriers to employment (or indeed further education, training, or interning – and general wellbeing).


Click to open a window to my Removing Barriers for the Unemployed Workshop newsletter.

What can do we do about it?  It stands to reason that we should at least offer enjoyable/accessible/practical resilience training to people on the unemployment register- using best practice modern psychotherapy strategies, taking the same approach we use for exercise and nutritional health education – no stigma, just very practical new coping skills for everyday life that recognise the science and circle of the situation – classic personal development training with a modern edge.


Click to open a window to my Cognitive Behavioural Training for Youth Unemployed newsletter.

CBTandFeelingGood.com have piloted a series of non psychiatric / non doctor referral ‘Job Ready’ workshops. This is personal development training, teaching practical CBT life skills to a cross section of people. See testimonials.

This kind of training is NOT group therapy, there is no sharing or hugging, rather it’s a fun and fascinating ‘learning by discovery’ experiential workshop that teaches the ‘new science of thinking and feeling and behaving‘ using the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy psycho-educational model – in much the same way that executives receive management and leadership training in critical/rational thinking in fact. In truth, it should be taught in schools to save many of us unnecessary rides on lifes emotional rollercoaster, and our ensuing patterns of self sabotaging behaviour in many areas of life.


This is a sample slide from the UK government ‘Working for Wellbeing’ published paper – recommending CBT for long term unemployed…..

psych training for unemployed quote

This workshop was developed because of:

– The success of control group studies in the UK that determine CBT improves mental health and job finding among the unemployed.
– The service offering of low intensity CBT / CBT training (without doctors referral) in the UK JobCentre Plus schemes.
– My TNA (training needs analysis) with professional LES (local employment services) mediators in Dublin.
– My experience of positive outcomes for unemployed clients in my private practice.
– The Irish, European and World Health Organisation studies on the negative effect on mental health of unemployment being a major barrier to re-employment.

kingscollegeinstpsychlogoIs there a value and return on investment with this model? – The Department of Pyschology, Inst of Psychiatry, Kings College London say yes:  the conclusion from the results of the study titled: “Can the effects of a 1-day CBT psychoeducational workshop on self-confidence be maintained after 2 years?” are: The overall results of this naturalistic study indicate that a very brief, intensive, and large scale intervention can largely maintain its effects for participants with depression over a 2-year period.

What type of people is this training for? Everybody actually! Some people cope with adverse situations better than others – but whether this training is:

  • simply great tools to help somebody who has good coping skills to do even better in life (particularly in communications and managing challenging people)
  • or proactive and preventative to stop somebody heading down an emotional cul de sac
  • or reactive and curative to help those already suffering

– well it really doesn’t matter – everybody can benefit from it. Learning about the science of thinking and feeling and behaviours – and how we can understand and recognise if our automatic thoughts and beliefs have become distorted and unhealthy, and how we can change them if they result in self sabotaging behaviour – is as important as learning how to take care of our physical or nutritional health. This learning also teaches us better understanding and acceptance of other people and their behaviours, and how to communicate more effectively. In short, it helps us achieve calm and happiness and balance, and the confidence and desire to go and attack life. Our evaluation sheets are overwhelmingly and enthusiastically positive. The training has proven very effective.


Interested? Want to know a little more?

Note: my blog self help therapy, and indeed my personal development workshops, are not meant to take the place of a health professional for serious emotional health issues – it is NOT GROUP THERAPY – it is low intensity CBT training, which is designed to be a practical course in self managment skills and emotional resilience, (though it has proven to effectively treat mild to moderate anxiety) – for more severe conditions please do go to your doctor to discuss the situation if you feel it is unmanageable. Your doctor will diagnose and recommend a care plan and referral to a suitable therapy



“The UK Government has announced CBT will be available in JobcentresCBT encourages people to look for potential solutions rather than the causes of difficulties…  – Former work and pensions secretary James Purcnell said ‘.. the pilots are proving so successful that, whilst there are short term costs, we expect the programme to save money in the long term by helping people back into work, cutting the benefit bill and lowering costs in the NHS..’. Ministers are worried that past recessions have led to huge rises in the numbers of long term unemployed.” Allegra Stratton, Political Correspondent, The Guardian UK

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