General Motors’ announcement to close its Oshawa assembly plant sparked anger and outrage, but it also triggered something most of us can’t see — mental health issues in the workplace.
With 2,500 people expected to lose their jobs and hundreds more who will be affected, the past couple of months have been a rollercoaster of emotions for employees who don’t know what’s next.
“Anxiety’s been through the roof,” said GM worker Mike Mutimer.
Mutimer works on the assembly line at the Oshawa General Motors plant. Since November’s announcement of the plant’s pending closure, though, he’s finding it hard some days to go to work.
“I get up in the morning and I’m just shaking, I throw up, I’ve called in due to my anxiety,” said Mutimer. “Right now the morale is so low we have rolling call-ins. It’s hard to keep up.”
Mutimer has been working on and off at the plant for the past 10 years, supporting a wife and a daughter. The uncertainty surrounding his future, he says, is challenging him mentally.
“When I got my full-time job, I said hey, we got a future here, stability. And now we don’t have that anymore,” Mutimer said. “The truck’s driven right in to our face right now and we have the reality of what do we do? What do we do now? How long do we have left?”
“This is a significant loss,” said psychologist Dr. Adisa Azubuike. “It’s like losing somebody that’s been close to you. It’s like a death — it’s a death of your livelihood.”
Dr. Azubuike says dealing with a potential layoff is always challenging, but recommends that workers find avenues to express their feelings and what’s on their mind.
“You must connect with people who are going through similar things with you, reach out to your resources, friends, family, clergy,” said Dr. Azubuike.
There are some mental health supports available for employees at the plant, but Mutimer says more can still be done.
“Tempers have been flaring, simple ant hills have become mountains,” he said. “They give you a handout to say you can call these numbers, look at this website, check out these tips — again, it’s not anything that helps immediately.”
Spending time with his family is what allows Mutimer to block out the negative, he says — at least for a while.