The Great [Human] Depression
With World Mental Health Day there have been a string of articles on mental depression and its impact. Most of these articles focus on what can be done to “treat” depression, but ignore the underlying question of “why is depression on the rise?”
If you look back to the Great Financial Depression of the 1920s and 1930s (starting with the stock market crash in 1929), there are a number of factors that caused mental depression during those times:
- Business went into survival mode and focused on the bottom line, damn the costs.
- People were thrust out of work.
- People lost their savings, retirement funds, homes.
- People were marginalized and lost their positive self-image.
- The media and governments were all spouting how great life was, just before the market crashed.
Now return and look around today:
businesses are focused solely of the bottom line and view employees as “expenses” or “human assets” that are the first and easiest item to cut.
- People are thrown out of work on mass.
- People watch as they use up their savings and retirement funds while unemployed and eventually even lose their homes.
- People are ignored when they apply for a job, never knowing why and/or how they fall short in meeting the job requirements thanks to automated HR procedures.
- Government and the media are again spouting how strong the markets are, how globalization has opened so many new doors.
Many companies will donate to worthy causes that help medical
research, the homeless, or other feel good, media grabbing, tax break
generating initiatives. While the donations are good, these same
companies will terminate 100s if not 1000s of employees as a “cost
cutting” exercise. These employees, these human beings, are now thrust into a turbulent mental storm and placed on a course directly for depression.
Depression in youth and 50+ age groups are two of the largest groups; not surprisingly these two groups are also the groups facing the most difficult job searches. A person in their 20s coming into the job market after following all the advice and building a student debt of tens of thousands of dollars find that the job markets are only offering low paying jobs that will hardly allow them to live let alone pay off their debt. Try as they might, they are either ignored (HR automation) or told time after time they aren’t a “good fit” and the constant negativity leads to… depression and desperation! A “right sized”, “redundant” or “out-dated” person in their 50s who is thrust into the job market after years of service to a company also finds themselves ignored (Hr automation again), “over-qualified” or lost as to how to meet the current job requirements without “current” academic credentials… again, the constant negativity leads to depression and desperation.
Business has a responsibility to their shareholders but first and foremost should have a responsibility to society if for no other reason than society consists of their clients!
- Employees need to be kept current by constant training supplied by, funded by or supported by the employer.
- Employees need to be the last item cut in order to meet the bottom line not the first.
- C-level management needs to accept responsibility for failing to meet the profit targets by showing leadership and cutting or “right sizing” their own compensation packages before cutting employees.
- Applicants need to be treated with respect and be given feedback on their job search to help them rather than being ignored.
- Profit expectations need to be brought back in line with reality. Companies that insist on a 10%+ increase in profits year over year when interest rates are running at 2% are doing nothing more than gouging at the cost of human lives.
A business may not have a “soul” but the people running it and working within it all do. Let’s help fight the Great Human Depression by putting the well-being of humans first and profits second.
(Images from us-history.com, thetorontostar.com, canada.com and carltonjhr.com)