Looking after mental health following redundancy.

05 August 2019

Redundancy can be a very difficult time and bring up a whole range of emotions from denial, anger, embarrassment and even relief.

When an individual is made redundant, they may lose their sense of purpose and lose social contacts with work colleagues; this can leave them feeling lonely and depressed. It is therefore not surprising that research shows that redundancy can have a detrimental effect on mental health.(1)

Reported negative effects of redundancy on individual mental health include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of motivation
  • Embarrassment
  • Not wanting to tell others
  • Loss of social contact
  • Loss in confidence in one’s own abilities
  • Financial distress

This is not an exhaustive list but gives an indication of how redundancy can affect an individual’s social and emotional wellbeing. 

Research on social identity suggests that long-term job loss and redundancy can threaten an individual’s self-concept, identity and self-definition(2). Work serves a social purpose in which identity is important for life satisfaction and overall wellbeing. Redundancy means losing this important social contact and a sense of belonging to the working environment or a team.

Another common explanation for the negative effect of redundancy on mental health is that redundancy is deemed as a major loss and often compared to a bereavement. The following stages of grief as stated by Kubler-Ross (3) include a set of 6 stages which individuals go through when they experience a loss:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Exploration
  • Acceptance

This useful model is often used to explain the range of emotions an employee may feel as they experience redundancy but also used to help identify coping mechanisms which can be adopted during each stage.

So what steps can be taken to reduce the impact of redundancy on mental health?

The good news is there are a number of measures that individuals can take to support themselves during what can be an uncertain and challenging time, these include: 

  • Try and take some control back over your life.
    Research has suggested that psychological strain from redundancy can occur due to increased demands and low levels of perceived control. (4) There may be increased pressure to find a job quickly to avoid financial strain or an individual may feel like they are no longer in control of their career. At this stage, it is useful to take some time out to think about what the future may look like. Redundancy can also create the opportunity to do something new and change career direction to something more fulfilling and rewarding.

  • Create a positive motivational state by setting appropriate goals. 
    According to W Clement Stone “Thinking will not overcome fear but action will”. It is important to acknowledge a ‘grieving period’ following redundancy but also mobilising into action as quickly as possible. Creating an action plan for the weeks that follow can provide focus and structure which help individuals move forward step by step in a manageable way. 

  • Take advantage of professional advice and support.
    Brief counselling interventions can provide extra support to individuals during times of job loss(4). Responsible organisations often provide career transition/ outplacement support to their employees and should actively encourage individuals to take up these services and expert support.

  • Bring awareness to your diet
    MIND the mental health charity suggests that food can have a huge impact on mood and overall wellbeing. Making healthy meal choices and avoiding large amounts of sugary and fatty foods may help to improve mood during difficult times. (5)

  • Look after your mind.
    Engaging in mindfulness interventions, meditation, yoga can also help to reduce stress and anxiety but also bring awareness to your situation so that you are better able to deal with the challenges ahead. (6)

    Article written by Charlene Allen on behalf of Two Sixty Ltd. Charlene has recently graduated from Keele University with a BSc Hons in Psychology. 

 

References:
(1) Anaf J, Baum F, Newman L, Ziersch A, Jolley G. The interplay between structure and agency in shaping the mental health consequences of job loss. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-110.
(2)
Turner, J., Brown, R., & Tajfel, H. (1979). Social comparison and group interest in ingroup favouritism. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 9(2), 187-204
(3) Carpenter J, Kübler-Ross E, Kubler-Ross E. Accepting Death: A Critique of Kübler-Ross. Hastings Cent Rep. 1979;9(5):42.
(4) Creed P, Bartrum D. Personal Control as a Mediator and Moderator Between Life Strains and Psychological Well-Being in the Unemployed. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2008;38(2):460-481

(5) Food and mood | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems. Mind.org.uk. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/. Published 2019. Accessed August 2, 2019.
(6)Wellbeing | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems. Mind.org.uk. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/wellbeing/. Published 2019. Accessed August 2, 2019.

 

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