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In a country where there is a high level of unemployment, our mental wellness remains compromised. We are not doing a lot to push awareness and educate young people about looking after their emotional and psychological well-being. Furthermore, unemployment is a growing trigger that is driving many young people into depression.


Erik Erikson postulates that, “Healthy personality and emotional development during adulthood require that a person believes they are making strides to enrich themselves by contributing to their family and community. Otherwise, self-esteem is compromised during unemployment, leading to anxiety and self-doubt.” Seemingly, there is a direct relationship between unemployment and deteriorating mental wellness. 

Many people find themselves at a crossroads. They need to keep a job to provide for themselves and their families. The same job at times contributes towards building positive and healthy self-esteem. Nevertheless, at times workplaces are toxic and lead to a deterioration of mental well-being, thus making joblessness a major psychosocial issue. It is a serious conundrum; if you choose to stay in a toxic working environment, your mental health gets compromised. If you take the bold step to choose yourself and protect your wellness in all aspects, being unemployed eventually leads to you being depressed and feeling frustrated by not being able to provide for yourself and get the things that money can buy. You feel useless.


In our social gatherings, over the weekends, many of us don’t look forward to Monday mornings. We dread the thought of waking up early to go and exchange our skills and expertise for remuneration. We want the money but the thought of going to work is bittersweet. Many of us are employed and unhappy people. We are equally unemployed and unhappy people. The sooner we realise that having choices for everyone is imperative for their well-being, the quicker we deal with the issue of unemployment, the easier it is going to be for many young people to be in a good space. We have to admit it, joblessness is dehumanising.

With the scarcity of jobs, when a young person resigns from a job, we automatically think they’ve got another job or a better opportunity. The general assumption is that there is no way an employed person can just resign from his or her job if they don’t have an offer on the table. It is unheard of for a person to choose their mental well-being over a job. Many would even call you stupid for doing so.  Those who are not single and come from dual-income households can negotiate with their significant others if they feel work is weighing them down. However, others have to stick it out. The other devastating part is that workplaces are investing more in empowering employees to be more effective in doing their jobs but do little to nothing to ensure that employees are in a good space emotionally and psychologically. The same workload, management, colleagues and clients at times create an unpleasant work environment. 

Now, more than ever, we need happy employees, we need more options for jobs. We need to eradicate unemployment to ensure that employers appreciate employees. In today’s world, if you fight for your rights at work, the employer can easily dismiss you as ungrateful. They have the audacity to tell you that ‘you clearly don’t want this job. Many young people out there would kill for this job’. In other words, the toxicities in the workplace should not be addressed; what remains important to those who hire us is that we have a job. That attitude is wrong. 
Psychologists and sociologists have argued as far back as the Great Depression that unemployment damages emotional health and undermines the social fabric of society. We should not have to choose between a job and our mental health. There should be endless job opportunities and this will ensure that when young people feel like their jobs are suffocating them, they can respectfully resign and look for greener pastures elsewhere.

Kabelo Chabalala

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