News / Calgary

Recession continues to hit Albertans where it hurts – their emotional health

Even though the province's financial outlook is brighter, those that provide mental health support say people are still feeling the impacts of the 2014 recession

Several hundred Calgarians lined up for a job fair at the Stampede grounds in 2017.

Elizabeth Cameron / For Metro

Several hundred Calgarians lined up for a job fair at the Stampede grounds in 2017.

Financially, politicians argue Alberta has turned a corner as it recoups from the recession – but there are plenty of hurdles to overcome yet for the thousands of unemployed people in this province, according to those witness the impacts a recession has on mental health firsthand.

Alberta’s unemployment rate is currently sitting at seven per cent, according to Statistics Canada, which represents a 1.7 per cent drop from January 2017 – the same month the Calgary Counselling Centre saw an all-time high demand for referrals, with 979 in total.

“We’re basically planning for a 3-5 per cent increase again for 2018,” said Calgary Counseling Centre's CEO Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner, who said demand has been steadily increasing since 2014.

“Although from a purely financial perspective, we’re out of recession … from a practical perspective, we know there are still a lot of people who are looking for work,” she explained.

“And there are also additional layoffs coming – not because of the drop in oil prices which experienced a couple of years ago, but because of mergers and acquisitions in the community – so that’s what we’re watching for.”

The centre provided 36,300 hours of counselling to people in Calgary last year, and this January, they saw just shy of last year’s record total referrals, with 943.

“Again, very high for January,” said Babins-Wagner. “It speaks to the demand in the community.”

Bianca Sinclair founded the volunteer-run support network Laid Off Calgary two years ago and said she’s seen consistent demand ever since – including a steady increase of people joining the network’s Facebook page.

“It’s fair and unfortunate to say (the recession) is still having an impact on people’s emotional health,” Sinclair told Metro.

“(The improving economic situation) is great for the people who are out working currently, and who will be receiving the benefit of those jobs going forward in this economy – but there’s many people who are currently not working.”

Sinclair said a job loss impacts a person’s daily routine, their finances, and often, their relationships, so it’s important to find support that works for them sooner rather than later – whether it be through her support groups or counselling sessions.

"They’re dealing with isolation, their social network has changed, and they’re probably dealing with rejection, or worse, no communication back from potential employers – so there’s a lot of self-doubt and anxiety that goes on,” she explained.

“The more that we acknowledge we’re all human, we all have bad days, and some of us have more difficult circumstances than others – by sharing that versus hiding it, we can make it more acceptable for people to get help when they need it, or might want it.”

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