Case Studies

Case Study #3 

Impact of change of work status on health and functioning

Amy Mullens, Clinical & Health Psychologist, University of Southern Queensland

This case study highlights inter-relationships between employment, mental health and physical health; with emphasis on factors contributing to continued unemployment and potential targets for intervention.

‘Doug’ is a 48-year-old male (Australian born, Caucasian). He is married (20 years) and a father of four children (ages 8–17; 1 of the children has ASD). He and his family live in a regional area about 35 minutes outside of the Brisbane CBD, in an industrial community. Doug’s children attend public school and are very involved in sports and scouts. His wife is a ‘stay at home mother’ who does some casual ironing to earn some additional income for the family, however Doug has until recently been the ‘main breadwinner’. Their extended family lives in the Brisbane area.

After 16 years of working for an energy company, Doug has recently been made redundant. He reportedly has received a ‘pay out’, however he has over $10,000 in credit card debt (due to a recent family holiday and costs associated with the kids activities) and a large mortgage; they own their car.

Doug has a TAFE certificate, but no further qualifications. He reports that he is having difficulty finding jobs with the qualifications he has that would pay the same or close to the salary of this previous job. Further, many of the new roles are shift work which could pose difficulties with the family schedule and having one car for transportation.

Doug’s wife has considering returning to work as a waitress or looking into options to become a pharmacy assistant; however Doug would strongly prefer for her to stay at home. The redundancy pay-out will support them for a few more months and they don’t want to have to ‘ask for a hand out’ from family.

Doug stated that he is reluctant to contact Centrelink or seek job assistance as he stated, ‘I want to do it myself’ and doesn’t ‘want to be a bludger’. Doug has also experienced some negative reactions in a recent interview based on his age; and is worried ‘no one will hire me at nearly 50’.

Doug reports experiencing intermittent migraines, which have become more frequent since losing his job. Further, he reports the stress and worry about money has been keeping him up at night and contributing to smoking more cigarettes. He is also reported feeling like he is ‘not a man’ because he fears he may not be able to provide for his family, and contributes to his worry.

Discussion questions

  • What are the key health and mental health challenges for Doug?
  • What are the physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and situational factors contributing to his current difficulties?
  • What are the current barriers and facilitators to employment? What other people / services could be involved to support Doug? How would you approach this?
  • How are his health and depressive symptoms interacting to influence his coping and potential future help-seeking and problem solving regarding future employment and self-management of symptoms?