Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day. Monday, Sept. 6, 2010.

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.” – Drew Carey

Today, people in my country, the United States, celebrate a national holiday called Labor Day. Labor Day was founded more than 100 years ago by our labor movement, and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”

It’s a bittersweet holiday this year, as our nation now has an official 9.6% unemployment rate – and that number doesn’t include people who have run out of unemployment benefits, who never had benefits in the first place, who have given up looking for work, or are working at a job far below their educational or experience level and still can’t pay the bills.

People who have crunched those numbers come up with a much higher figure – as of today, 21.5%. Essentially, we’re looking at figures similar to The Great Depression of the 1930s. And many of those people who are fortunate enough to be employed right now are like me – they’re worried about the future of their own employment as the Recession continues on and on. Or, they are trapped in jobs they detest, in bad working conditions, because they can’t find anyone else who is hiring.

All of this is scary news to people who care about suicide. According to John L. McIntosh, a psychology professor who researches suicide trends at Indiana University, “There is a link (to suicide) with circumstances that come along with a Recession, such as unemployment and home foreclosure … People who have lost their jobs commit suicide at rates two times to four times as high as those who are employed.”

In addition, health insurance is tied to employment in America. People being treated for depression, and perhaps being stabilized on medication, usually lose their health care when they lose their employment, making a bad situation worse and potentially more deadly.

Speaking of health care for those with depression and other illnesses, many American states lack “parity” laws, which means that many people can work and have health care benefits, but those benefits do not include mental health care. And once someone has been diagnosed with any mental illness, that illness becomes a pre-existing condition – which means that an individual might be unable to purchase health insurance at any cost. Some of these laws are changing, but not in time for people now in crisis.

It’s scary out there, in many ways. And it doesn’t look like things are going to improve soon. As we celebrate Labor Day this year, I ask anyone with a stable, secure job they enjoy to thank God for their situation. For those concerned about layoffs, or unhappy with their positions, I hope you can research other possibilities. And for those that are jobless, I pray that and that you find employment soon … and that you will hold on to life.

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