The government shutdown started Oct. 1, 2013 and ended on Oct. 16. Over two weeks, the financial and mental stability of many people was tested.
Some Americans lost their jobs temporarily, whereas others were merely inconvenienced by not being able to visit the Grand Canyon. And from a mental health perspective, we all may have suffered, even if it was just experiencing disappointment with our government.
Government shutdowns cut funding for mental health services and for science research, which both directly affect people with already severe mental health issues.
Mental health professionals share further how a short-term and long-term government shutdown can affect mental health.
Jennifer Howard, a licensed psychotherapist, said in an email that the level of disruption someone has experienced from the government shutdown will depend on how deeply it affects their mental health.
People could be experiencing stress, worry, anxiety, fear and anger, she said.
“Other potential reactions include shutting down emotionally, and avoiding thinking about or acknowledging what's happening,” Howard said.
Reactions to the shutdown also depend on prior experience with life stressors and tools people use to cope with stress in general.
“Some people are able to experience the shutdown with greater equilibrium by doing psychological or spiritual practices that help them stay present to their inner thoughts and feelings as they watch what's happening,” she said. “These practices might also help them process any difficult emotions that may arise.”
Although a crisis was averted last night, we might not have been so lucky and the shutdown could have become a long-term situation.
“If someone does continue to experience difficult thoughts and feelings that seem to be brought on by the shutdown, it might be helpful to see what could be coming up from their history and childhood,” Howard said.
“For example, if someone had a father that was always losing their job, this might bring up those old insecure feelings that the rug will be pulled at any moment.”
Here are some ways Howard suggests to cope with any future government shutdowns: