Careers And Mental Health: The Connection

Link Between Mental Health And Employment

Unemployed persons are twice as likely to have serious mental health problems requiring psychological or medical treatment compared to employed people. This is the finding of a study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

At the same time, a poll found that nearly 30 percent of Americans say they lose sleep at least a few nights a week because of worry about job loss and money worries.

Anxiety, panic attacks and depression cause insomnia, which in turn affects the ability to cope with the challenges of life changes such as those brought on by the recession.

Medical director Dr. Carol Ash says, “Sleep is linked to mental processing and health. When you’re not sleeping well it impairs your thinking, learning, reaction time and coping skills.”

In Britain, the Samaritans, a charity organization that offers round-the-clock emotional support, warn that as the economic crisis worsens, the country could see an increase in suicide rates.

What Is Mental Health?

According to the World Health Organization, the definition of mental health is not merely the absence of disease, but “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”.

Mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

One woman wrote in The Age about her battle with depression.

There are two things in the article that stood out that I want to share with you, because I believe they are helpful and important:

    • The Importance of Having a Mental Wellness Plan

Instead of relying on doctors and medication, there are things you can and should do daily to protect your mental well-being and prevent mental illness.

Fresh air. Sunshine. Taking a lunch break. Keeping in touch with friends and family. Eating well. Being around children.

    • The Secret of How to be Happy

The writer’s counsellor offered her this prescription for happinessthat I want to share with you:

      • Something or someone to love
      • Something to do that you are passionate about
      • Something to look forward to

The advice brings to mind a famous saying of the English statesman Joseph Addison:

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

Love. Passion. Dreams. Goals.

Isn’t it incredible how we often spend so much of our energies striving (and still feeling unfulfilled) when happiness is found in the simple, essential things?

The Power Of A Negative Thought

It is not only the unemployed whose mental health is at risk.

People who are not in an immediate crisis may also feel insecure and vulnerable. Fear of losing jobs and financial pressures from plummeting property values and dwindling retirement funds can adversely affect mental and emotional health and increase suicide risk.

As Dr. Lynn Bufka of the American Psychological Association explains –

“Someone has a good job but thinks they may lose the job or have their hours cut.

They then think about how they will pay the mortgage or rent.

So within 60 seconds, they have gone from having a stable life to being homeless, in their mind.”

When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago. — Nietzsche

Mental Health Help

We are fortunate to live in a time when so much more is understood about mental illness and its causes, symptoms and treatment.

There is a plethora of mental health resources, information and support available from your national mental health association as well as mental health professionals such as counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists.

If someone you care about is showing signs of stress, anxiety or depression and is not coping as well as they normally do, please let them know that they can and should get help.

    • Australia

BeyondBlue, a national not-for-profit organization working with depression, anxiety and substance misuse disorders

Australian Psychological Society

Lifeline (24-hour mental health hotline)

The Australian Counselling Association

    • USA

Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association)

SAMHSA – National Mental Health Information Center

College Student Mental Health Guide

Student Mental Health Resources

    • UK


Mind (National Association for Mental Health)

Top Tips To Improve Mental Health

    • Challenge Limiting Beliefs

Clinical psychologist Mary Gresham says many people mistakenly believe that money stress can only be reduced by money itself.

The trouble with this belief is that the more you think about money and how not to lose it, the more anxious and less effective you become at solving your problems.

Different people have different ways of describing this connection between your thinking and your circumstances.


As a man thinketh, so is he.

If you think about disaster, you will get it.
Brood about death and you hasten your demise.
Think positively and masterfully, with confidence and faith,
and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action,
richer in achievement and experience.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)


Example: Challenge Your Money Attitudes

Watch how Byron Katie challenges her audience to question their beliefs about money.

    • Switch Your Focus

The Corporation for National & Community Service has found that volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction, lower rates of depression and better physical and mental health.

Why is this so?

Humans are meant to live in meaningful connection with one another. When we help others, we feel good about ourselves. When we think about how to make someone else’s life better, we take our focus off our own troubles. We may find, as we often do, that someone else is having a much worse time and that we wouldn’t trade places with them for anything in the world. We gain a new perspective on our situation. Gratitude for what we have. Renewed strength to cope. Inner resources we didn’t know existed because they hadn’t been put to the test before now.

So if you have never tried it, give some time, money or effort to make someone else’s life better. You and they will be happier for it.

    • Avoid Negative Situations And People

There are some people you and I would do better avoiding.

You know the ones. They have nothing good to say, are constantly whining about themselves, complaining about everyone and everything and predicting that things are going to get much worse.

If you are already in a psychologically vulnerable state, stay away from the pessimists and practitioners of negative thinking. They can drag you down with them and your emotional and mental health may suffer.

If money worries are threatening your quality of life, fight back with constructive action.

What one thing can you change today that is likely to improve your financial situation?

Perhaps you could look at alternative ways to make money. There are opportunities in part time work from home, and ways to make money online.

Get the family together to re-look the household budget and see how you can reduce discretionary spending to a manageable level while still making room to have fun times together.

Family decision making is a great way to get the kids involved, to teach the importance of teamwork, and to encourage resilience through positive action.

Our family loves playing board games together, and Monopoly is one of our favourites. Recently, we bought Rich Dad Cashflow for Kids.

Rich Dad Cashflow for Kids is like Monopoly, except that instead of buying property, you buy stocks and build businesses.

My husband and I want to teach our kids – while they are at their most teachable – the basics about money management and the difference between assets and doodads. My 9-year-old now understands that if she cajoles Mummy and Daddy into buying her things from the shops just because she wants them or her friends have them, we are spending our money on things that may not grow in value, and losing the opportunity to make that money grow.

    • Exercise and Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability. WHO predicts that by 2020, depression will be the 2nd leading contributor to the global burden of disease for all ages and sexes.

Research shows that exercise is not only a great stress reliever, it also equips you to cope with future stress and to fight depression.

When you exercise, your brain produces endorphins and other neurotransmitters which act as anti-depressants and enhance your sense of wellbeing.

If you don’t like exercising on your own, join a group class or grab a partner and go for a walk around your neighbourhood. Just getting out in the fresh air can do wonders for your mind and body.

    • Spirituality and Mental Health

Being spiritual is not the same as being religious. Spirituality is more personal, whereas religion is community-based and requires that you abide by the practices and beliefs of your religious community.

You can be deeply concerned about matters of the spirit, the meaning and purpose of life, your place in the universe and how you connect with other living things, without necessarily practising or believing in a religion.

What are the benefits of spirituality?

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists website, patients who receive good quality spiritual care report improved self-esteem and confidence, faster and easier recovery, improved relationships and a new sense of meaning.

If you are spiritually inclined, it is important that you nurture your spiritual strength. Read. Reflect. Meditate. Constantly challenge yourself to live consciously. Learn from individuals whose lives and attitudes inspire you. Connect with like-minded others.

Having strong inner resources will help you cope better with crises and changes and bounce back from disaster. If you pay little attention to your inner world, you may find that when trials come and your external supports are taken from you, the strength within may not be enough to prop you up.

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