I have worked in toxic environments that depleted and debilitated me to the point that, in two cases, I was psychologically completely incapable of even thinking about finding work for three months after being laid off from one, and quitting the other.
It doesn’t even take abusive bosses who don’t like you, although that just makes it far worse.
It simply takes being treated like a robotic code monkey who is expected to do everything that is ordered, without question, and micromanaged to the point of insanity, while people in management positions make decisions – and then reverse them – that are so obviously wrong to any competent engineer that it makes Dilbert’s PHB look like Einstein in comparison. This is not much of an exaggeration.
This is bad enough for any regular human to endure, but take a skilled engineer who probably suffers from impostor syndrome and the upper end of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it is a recipe for a breakdown and, quite possibly, suicide.
Those who would glibly criticize such people for not going and getting another job, or just quitting, are out of touch with how badly one’s confidence is damaged by that point; it would not be unreasonable to compare the psychology to that of abused spouses who don’t leave their abusers.
Also, I could not leave one of the jobs without losing my work visa and being deported (it was back in 2003 before visa portability). Maybe others are in situations that make it harder than expected to move on.
My deepest empathy goes to this engineer, and to all others who suffer in this way, and to their families. We need to pay far more attention to the destruction that is done by quasi-sociopathic managers.