The Real Costs of Unemployment on our Community

It takes a little digging to figure out the “true” rates of unemployment in the US.  The unemployment figures you hear reported in the media are somewhat misleading.  At the time of this blog, the current unemployment rates reported are approximately 5.5% or about 8.5 million people are unemployed (March 2015) .

However, if you want to know the “true” unemployment rates they are significantly higher.  Depending on how you categorize people without jobs the range is anywhere from 25 million to 90 million in the United States.  This blog is not to intended to teach anyone about statistics but to examine how unemployment affects the people in our recovery community.

I know I said I was not going to get into statistics but I do have one statistic that may be of interest to our community…Out of the 10 million people who are categorized as severely mentally ill 8 million are unemployed.  With a little math that equates to 80% unemployment.  That is correct 80% unemployment.  The economic cost of providing 8 million people with disability or other forms of government support comes in at $250 billion a year.  This is a very, very, very large cost to our economy.

It is important not to let statistics and economics overshadow the human experience of unemployment.  In an article on the effects of unemployment on people’s mental health,  author Rebecca J. Rosen of The Atlantic writes “Those who have been looking for work for half a year or more are more than three times as likely to be suffering from depression as those with jobs.”  Mary Giliberti, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness states “People with mental illness who find competitive jobs have higher quality of life, fewer symptoms and lower mental health care costs”

It is clear that unemployment compounds the problems associated with mental illness.  So where are the solutions?

In a July 10, 2014 article in USA Today titled “Bleak Picture for mentally ill: 80% are jobless” says one of the answers exits in “supportive employment”.  Supported employment is a well-defined approach to helping people find meaningful jobs and providing ongoing support from a team of mental health professionals.  Since the 1980’s studies on supported employment demonstrate enormous benefits in helping individuals become healthier and more productive.  Access to supported employment continues to be a problem, despite extensive evidence showing its effectiveness.

It is my hope that any well-heeled entrepreneurs looking for a challenge join me in developing more supportive employment opportunities for the recovery community.  What an amazing opportunity to help someone find productivity, purpose and passion in their recovery.


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