Q. My husband recently lost his job in Human Resources for a retail chain because of cutbacks. He was one of several hundred employees who were let go, so our area is crawling with unemployed people looking for work. He's totally discouraged and he seems to have given up on the job hunt. I come home and find him still in his pajamas playing computer games. I'm really worried about him. What do you suggest?
A. In general, men strongly identify with their jobs so it's not unusual for them to go through a period of mourning following job loss. This mourning is typically experienced as a mild depression. From your description, it sounds as though that's what's going on with your husband. You can help him through the grieving process by letting him know you believe in him and by encouraging him to talk about what the loss means to him. Even more important, help him get motivated again by exploring alternatives and thinking of this situation as an opportunity for a fresh start. Have you considered that he might apply for jobs in a different geographical location? Of course that would mean you'd have to find work in the new place as well if you are currently employed. Still, moving could end up being a great adventure. Other possibilities are enlisting the services of a headhunter, networking, and taking a course in job-seeking skills at the local community college to gain an edge on the competition. If none of these suggestions shake him out of his apathy, you need to make sure he sees a doctor in order to rule out major depression. Sometimes what is called a "reactive depression" — a temporary one that comes on the heels of an upsetting event — can turn into a full-blown disorder. This is a serious illness that needs to be treated.