THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING SOME TIME ON LABOR DAY TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IT MAY MEAN TO THOSE WHO AREN’T WORKING OR CAN’T WORK BECAUSE OF ADDICTION AND OR MENTAL ILLNESS.
According to Wikipedia, Labor Day in the United States of America is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday.
Most of us who work have the day off and we tend to see the holiday generally as one last summer Harrah before the cold weather comes in, before school starts and most notably before what tends to be the busiest time at work for many of us- the “fourth quarter” and the holidays!
The “holiday” for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues, however, is often another reminder of how they feel alienated from society. On a day where all things “work” is celebrated, for people who don’t work or who don’t feel connected to society through their work, naturally this is going to be a day where they feel their experiences are once again anything but normal. Is it because of their illness that they can’t work, or ones’ lack of work is causing their illness…. It is irrelevant! The fact of the matter is that there is a connection between (lack of) work and mental health/addiction, and the connection is generally a negative one.
There are many published studies that show the longer someone is unemployed, the more likely they are to turn to alcohol and drugs and the more depressed and anxious they become. There are also many studies which show that the unemployment rate for those struggling with addiction and or mental illness is significantly higher than the general population.
The statistics are telling:
(1). According to NAMI in 2014, the national unemployment rate for individuals receiving public mental health services was approximately 80 percent. Approximately 60 percent of the 7.1 million people receiving public mental health services nationwide want to work, but less than 2 percent receive supported employment opportunities provided by states.
All of the celebrations during Labor Day are well deserved. Many in this country work incredibly hard and deserve a day off, time with friends and family and time to end properly end their summers and get ready for the end of the year. However, the day is also time to reflect on the millions of people who aren’t working because of an addiction or mental illness and therefore have little to celebrate on this holiday. Living in a society that places
(2). According to the government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2013, About 1 in 6 unemployed workers were addicted to alcohol or drugs — almost twice the rate for full-time workers,
(3). A study published in the NBER in 2017 finds that as the unemployment rate increases by one percentage point in a given county, the opioid-death-rate rises by 3.6 percent, and emergency-room visits rise by 7 percent.
(4). And as Emile Durkheim concludes in his doctoral dissertation,”The Division of Labour in Society”, the transition from a primitive society to an advanced society (where one is defined by what they do for a living, not by who they are) brings about an increase in major disorder, crisis and anomie. Whether or not the data supports his thesis is irrelevant. We know in a capitalist society if we don’t work or even if we do work and yet we don’t feel “successful” at work, in a large way we simply don’t feel like we fit in. And when we feel like we don’t fit in, we become alienated and significantly more prone to feelings of depression and anxiety and behaviors such as addictions.
All of the celebrations during Labor Day are well deserved. Many in this country work incredibly hard and deserve a day off, time with friends and family and time to end properly end their summers and get ready for the end of the year. However, the day is also time to reflect on the millions of people who aren’t working because of an addiction or mental illness and therefore have little to celebrate on this holiday. Living in a society that places so much value on optimizing productivity in the workplace is a tough place to live for those who may not be optimal workers because of their disease or their addiction. Living in a society that in many ways embraces the Darwinian Theory of, “Survival of the Fittest” places a lot of pressure on all of us and is a harsh reality that is difficult to accept especially for those who are handicapped in these ways. Living in a society that defines people not by who they are but rather by what they do for society leaves those without a “job” without any sort of identification, which most definitely will lead to negative self-worth and all that accompanies that.
Recognizing that one’s employment, or lack thereof, is a key social determinant of health is a significant first step. We must be supportive of those struggling with addiction and mental health to find meaningful work as part of their recovery. The biopsychosocial approach systematically considers biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and health care delivery. The SOCIAL factors cannot be ignored. Having a good and meaningful job is often an integral part of one’s long term recovery.