Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog entry are from me as an (almost) private citizen. They do not in any way reflect the views of the (unnamed) agency I have been working for. There.
Let’s start with the Bad News. Actually, you already know the basis for the Bad News — the U.S. economy is not doing well. That means there are a lot of people out of work, or barely making enough money to get by, and that creates stress. Stress is a factor in depression, anxiety, and pretty much all forms of mental illness. These barely-getting-by people can’t afford private therapy, so they go to public agencies for help. Unfortunately, thanks to various political administrations (you know who they are, on the federal and state level), funds for health care are lacking. So you’ve got more people seeking help, and less money to support the services to help them. An equation that spells disaster.
The agency I work for (at the moment) has made some hard choices, because the money isn’t there. They are laying off 6+ people. The focus is shifting to working with clients in groups, and to crisis management. While drop-in services will still be available during working hours, they will no longer be able to offer one-on-one long-term therapy. This is Bad News for some clients. The groups they offer are very good, and am happy that option exists. They’ve been making a real difference in the lives of many clients. However, not all clients are ready to trust, or they need more individual work, and that is going to be difficult to provide on a drop-in, see-whomever-is-available basis. I hope I’m wrong. But I suspect the changes are Bad News for some of the clients.
It’s also Bad News for most of the people who continue to work for the agency. There will be fewer coworkers to help with clients. They’ve had to discharge clients that some of them have worked with for many months. You don’t get into the mental health field because you want to make money or wield power (well, at least not public health on the working-with-clients level). You do it because you genuinely care about people, and you want to help them make a success of their life. You build healing relationships with them. And now that is ending for many before there is a real sense of resolution. Also, the shift to crisis management is stressful. There is pressure to find solutions for the clients on a local level within tight parameters. So this change is Bad News for the people who continue to work there.
And it’s Bad News for most of the people who are being laid off. Even if they are able to find new jobs, there is the stress of change, and money problems, and the sleepless nights of wondering how all this will turn out. Even though you are told “it’s not personal,” losing your job IS very personal, because so often our jobs are tied up with our self-worth.
Imagine by now you are wondering, Where is the Good News? Hey, the Good News is I am one of the people being laid off! I won’t be one of the mental health workers struggling under impossible constraints. I’m not (yet!) one of the clients no longer able to get the personalized assistance I need. And I have a significant other who can still support me (though things will get a little tight). I’ve written before about needing to complete my thesis, and figure this is a kick-in-the-pants from the Universe to go ahead and do that. I will finally have time for housework and yardwork, and more time for knitting, blogging, reading, and watching movies. Being out of work will be temporary for me, but for now it is not a bad thing. Inconvenient, yes. And I will very much miss my clients. But all things considered, I think I got the better end of the deal.