Emotional first aid provider Eran reported a 25 percent increase in calls to its hot line over the past week, with most of those looking for support coming from among the thousands of workers made redundant in recent months.
The NGO said in a statement the overwhelming majority of callers expressed feelings of humiliation and insult at being let go by their employers and shared concerns of not being able to continue supporting their families or pay off debts, and that most were pessimistic about the chances of finding work in the near future.
Last week, the National Employment Service said a record 19,719 workers lost their jobs in January, the most ever in a single month. The number of job-seekers rose to 215,000, up from 207,200 in December, and demand for workers fell 12.1% to 20,100, compared to 22,900 in January 2008.
Based on the Bank of Israel's growth forecast and current employment statistics, the number of job-seekers is expected to exceed 260,000 by the end of 2009.
"The size and scope of this [economic] crisis is taking its toll on the nation's spirit," said Eran director Orly Ariel, adding that her organization had already initiated a program to provide immediate assistance and advice to both those who have been laid off and to managers who were being forced to fire their staff.
Eran had no choice but to create such a program after calls fielded by volunteer counselors raised serious concerns, she said. One 39-year-old man, a manager at a large company, called just minutes after firing several employees and was extremely upset about what he had done and concerned he would be "the next in line," she said.
As part of the new program, trained counselors will provide the heads of such organizations and companies with guidelines on how to tactfully and gently inform employees that their services are no longer needed, as well as offer emotional support to help deal with the resulting feelings of guilt.
In addition, Eran said it planned to run group workshops and one-on-one programs aimed at helping those who had been fired come to terms with their new status and not lose their dignity.
"Eran has 37 years' experience helping people deal with anxiety and fear in all types of situations," Ariel said. "The economic recession is no less difficult."
Eran can be reached by dialing 1201 or via the Web at www.eran.org.il.