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As unemployment grows, so do mental health issues

Psychiatrist cites major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder as clearest impacts of long-term joblessness

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — Exacerbated by the pandemic, unemployment in the Kingdom has reached shocking highs, with approximately one in four Jordanians jobless. Beyond the strict economic impact of unemployment, experts say the phenomenon also has a tangible impact on Jordanians’ mental health.اضافة اعلان

According to the Department of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Jordan currently stands at 24.7 percent. The burden seems to have hit the younger generations the hardest, with the World Bank estimating that half of youth were jobless by the end of 2020.

"The current unemployment is a major cause for mental health challenges and burdens,” said Abdullah Abu Adass, licensed psychiatrist, in an interview with Jordan News. “One of the clearest forms is major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.”

Adass stressed that this rise in unemployment could lead to many negative impacts on Jordan’s population, such as substance abuse, domestic abuse, community abuse, and internal conflict.

"Underestimation of self is a major cause of other psychological conflicts, which can be manifested by a withdrawal from their community, not being able to participate in their community or interact,” said Adass. “Also, it causes a kind of self-isolation, which can lead to multiple negative thoughts about their environment and can also exacerbate the feeling of social injustice." He emphasized the drastic need to "find smart ways to help and support young people when it comes to employment."

Adass believes that for the sake of the Kingdom, there needs to be an open dialogue around mental health now more than ever.

Ala' Shishan, 32, has been out of work since 2018. He is just one of many Jordanians who have faced stress and other challenges while battling unemployment. A personal issue in his life caused him to leave his job, but in March of 2019, after spending nearly a year unemployed, he was ready to return to the workforce. At the time, neither Ala' nor the rest of the world could have predicted that a global pandemic was looming.

"That was it. Even if you got a little bit of excitement in you, this whole thing crushed the enthusiasm fully,” he said in an interview with Jordan News.

Hoping there would be less strain on hiring once 2021 dawned, he postponed his job search until January of 2021, but so far, he has heard nothing but silence from employers.

"I didn't stop looking for a job, but it wasn't my main concern. The situation was volatile at the time. People were getting laid off left, right and center."

Ala' studied and worked abroad before coming back to his native Amman, which he believes is why his CV "can look intimidating." He also thinks that employers, hoping to provide only low wages, might be incentivized to hire fresh graduates over more seasoned recruits.

His ongoing struggle to find employment has caused him immense stress as well as loss of faith in the system, leading him to pursue opportunities outside of Jordan, he said.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 23-year-old Rayan Al-Fakhoury, 23, just recently graduated with a degree in architecture from Jordan University of Science and Technology. Paradoxically, she is unemployed because of a "lack of long-term work experience."

"For me, and for anyone struggling with being unemployed for a long period, it caused me many problems on a social level, even our mental health and the way we look at ourselves,” she told Jordan News. “And of course, it was hard for me to doubt myself and my abilities on all levels."

"How is this something that is supposed to build morale?" Shishan asks. "It's not fair, the whole employment game. There's so much prejudice."
In recent months, the government has taken measures to create employment and support the most vulnerable Jordanians. The government has launched "two social protection programs to support vulnerable households," and efforts to protect businesses, according to The World Bank.

Additionally, the Ministry of Labor sees the dilemma among newcomers and is working to promote and stimulate job growth, Mohammad Zyoud, the Ministry’s spokesperson, in an interview with Jordan News.

"The Ministry of Labor, through its role in regulating the market, is restricting many professions to only Jordanians, and signing employment agreements with the ministry's partners in the private sector to increase the attractiveness of the country,” Zyoud said.

The ministry also seeks to introduce modern machinery into the construction and agriculture sectors, to further attract more young people, Zyoud noted.

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