Dealing with Depression After Job Loss Due to Coronavirus

Involuntary job loss can cause mental health problems, such as symptoms of complicated grief, depression, and anxiety. Self-esteem, just world belief and early-stage counseling can help mitigate impact of job loss on mental health.

Impact of Job Loss on Mental Health

Characteristics of job loss-related complicated grief (CG) symptoms include preoccupying thoughts about the lost job, disbelief or inability to accept the loss, bitterness, and a sense that life is meaningless without the former occupation.

CG symptoms following job loss can co-occur with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Even though there is an overlap in symptoms between CG, depression, and anxiety, factor-analytic studies have shown that these symptoms form distinguishable concepts.

Further impacts may include prolonged grief, including feelings of despair, anger and hostility, social isolation, loss of control, depersonalization, and death anxiety.

Factors That Affect Job Loss Depression

Diverse factors may be related to how one responds to involuntary job loss. Attachment to the former job, job congruence and duration, and length of time since the loss may affect responses to job loss.

Other factors include age, gender, social support, dependents, financial resources, length of notice, skill level, and perceived employment prospects.

For instance, inadequate preparation time for an event imposes adverse effects on mental health. Therefore, employees who are given little notice prior to job loss may be at higher risk for grief reactions.

Researchers suggest that job counselors should be especially alert for signs of grief among workers who have been unemployed the longest, who have dependents, and who did not receive adequate notice that the job was ending.

Self-Esteem and Just World Beliefs Can Help

Researchers find that increases in self-esteem and just world beliefs are associated with decreases in prolonged grief symptoms.

Self-esteem denotes a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. Confidence in one’s value as a human being is a precious psychological resource and generally a highly positive factor in life; it is correlated with achievement, good relationships, and satisfaction.

According to the just world hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve.

Increases in just world beliefs have a direct effect on grief symptoms – the belief that the world is just and predictable may buffer the effects of job loss.

External Interventions for Job Loss Depression

Research findings suggest that complicated grief symptoms following job loss predict depression and anxiety symptoms later in time. Hence, screening and preventive measures targeting complicated grief might reduce the risk of developing additional mental health issues after dismissal.

Individuals could be stimulated to re-engage in meaningful social activities to reduce the risk for the development of elevated depressive symptoms. Interventions that focus on cognitive restructuring, could target the fears and worries about the future to prohibit anxiety symptoms from increasing.

Reduction of job loss-related grief symptoms can prevent other mental health problems from evolving and increase well being, and therefore enhances the chance of sustainable re-employment.


Sources consulted:

Anthony Papa, Robyn Maitoza. 2013. “The Role of Loss in the Experience of Grief: The Case of Job Loss.” In Journal of Loss and Trauma, 18: 152 – 169.

Janice O. Brewington, 
Sylvia C. Nassar-McMillan
, Claudia P. Flowers
, Susan R. Furr. 2004. “A Preliminary Investigation of Factors Associated With Job Loss Grief.” In The Career Development Quarterly, Vol. 53, pp. 78-83.

Janske H. W. van Eersel, Toon W. Taris, Paul A. Boelen. 2020. “Reciprocal relations between symptoms of complicated grief, depression, and anxiety following job loss: A cross-lagged analysis.” In Clinical Psychologist, 1-9.

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