Facebook Pixel

How a Government Shutdown Impacts Mental Health

By HERWriter
Rate This
how mental health is impacted by government shutdown PS Productions/PhotoSpin

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:

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I am a Federal Employee who was furloughed - essential. This means that I was required to work without pay. From October 1st until October 29th, I did not see any money for the services I provided and although we were all back paid, I can tell you that there was a major stress in my home due to this cat and mouse game in Washington.


Freshly married, spending all my hard eared money for the occasion - knowing that the money would essentially come back for long term, I was in no position to lose money for a month while still enduring the same expenses such as gas, doggie daycare parking, etc. Thankfully, my bank decided to help and sent out an email which was entitled, "we are here to help". My pay is direct deposited and I am assuming that this is how I received this email. All insufficient fund fees, etc were waived for me during the lack of appropriations for 29 days. I received this email approximately 15 days into the shutdown that no one could have expected.

Stress - gone and thankful that while the cat/mouse game in Washington was headline news, there was comfort from commercial businesses to reach out to the wounded American Federal workers who were affected. What happens to all the businesses that lost funds due to the standoff? Nothing, I am sure.

January 15th is right around the corner and this could all happen again. Preparedness is key. I have now obtained a part time position to essentially prepare for yet another cat/mouse game.


Friendly reminder that who you elect, can affect your future.Choose wisely!


November 2, 2013 - 5:13am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.