Unemployment insurance claims in the US exceeded three million this week due to Covid-19. This is greater than the number of people seeking unemployment in the Great Recession. This figure does not include self-employed people, contractors, or freelance workers. This is a global pandemic of unemployment. It is an economic crisis within a health crisis.
I’ve lived through both financial lack and times when I’ve had plenty. I hate to take money from others but conversely, I love to be generous. It warms my heart to give to others in need. I’ve been fortunate to have generous family and friends who have offered to help me financially when I was going through hard times. Some have simply sent money and gift cards without prompting. As wonderful as that is, it is also humbling, even somewhat painful.
Why is it so hard to accept help? It places us in a position of submission or indebtedness. We fear being judged. We feel that we aren’t competent enough to achieve financial security or that we failed to plan for a rainy day. It feels like a public display of weakness. We prefer to be perceived as capable.
Suddenly losing your income presents a psychological challenge. As people lose jobs, they also lose income, security, and status. It’s not certain how long businesses will be impacted. This increases stress and anxiety. Studies show that people who suffered financial, housing, or job-related hardship following the Great Recession were more vulnerable to mental health problems.
There is no single cause of suicide, but unemployment can be associated with an increased risk for suicide. Suicide rates increase when the economy is in recession and fall when the economy is booming. Individual factors like poor mental health and the availability of unemployment benefits play a role in who might be at risk of suicide. Losing a job does not indicate immediate suicide risk, but the risk increases the longer a person is unemployed. Social support from family and friends seems to protect unemployed people from suicidal thoughts, particularly for people who have been unemployed for more than a year. Another factor for at-risk people is whether they blame themselves.
It may cause great personal angst to ask for financial help, but Covid-19 lockdowns present a unique situation in our lifetime.
After applying for all available government aid and loans, reach out to your support network. First of all, select a person who has the means to help and with whom you have a close reciprocal relationship. Let them know what steps you’ve taken to alleviate your situation, and that you have exhausted all your resources. Explain clearly how much you want and for what purpose. Discuss why you need it and how you plan to pay it back. Don’t expect an immediate response. Allow them time to think it over. Talking face to face increases the chances of a positive reply. Respect their decision no matter the outcome. If your request is granted, make sure to establish terms and conditions on the loan, getting an agreement in writing. If denied, don’t let money come between you and your friendship.
Surely we can all agree that we are not to blame for financial loss as a result of Covid-19. Let’s be compassionate to ourselves and to each other as we struggle to find our way. Former President George W. Bush released a COVID-19 video. He said it well; “In the final analysis, we are not bipartisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful.” Let’s support each other as such.