Job losses on top of holiday stress boosting calls to mental health agencies

Calls to mental health counselors way up

RYN GARGULINSKI

Tuscon, AZ (RushPRNews) 12/20/08– More than 90 % of workers recently polled by ComPsych, a global provider of employee assistance programs, said they were losing sleep over the sad state of the economy. The loss of a job and the economic downturn are combining with holiday stress to plunge more people into anxiety and depression.

More than 6,000 Tucsonans lost their jobs this year, and the economy is not expected to right itself for six months to a year.

Local mental health professionals are seeing an increase in calls for help as well as a shift in the reason for which people are seeking that help.

“It all comes down to money,” said Laura Waterman, clinical director of Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation. “Job loss. House foreclosure. Things snowball.”

Clarke Romans, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Arizona, said his agency, too, is being bombarded.

“The number of calls are definitely up,” he said. “We are definitely hearing more distress over things because of money pressures.”

While more people are turning to counselors, many still do not because of the expense or the stigma associated with lingering sadness or depression, experts say.

It’s important, they say, to get help or recognize where your feelings are coming from and take steps to improve your situation and your state of mind.

“When three months go by with only two job interviews, it’s hard not to feel a certain amount of self-doubt and hopelessness,” said one Tucson woman who was willing to talk about her recent job loss but spoke about her mental state only on the condition that she not be identified.
“You can’t really indulge it, can’t let it debilitate you, because that just makes things worse. Try to do something rather than sit around being miserable, even if that something is trivial rather than productive.”

The Tucson Citizen’s policy is not to use unnamed sources whenever possible. However, to fully tell this story, editors decided to use a credible but unnamed source.

Even people who still have jobs are struggling in the face of economic uncertainty.
More than 90 percent of workers recently polled by ComPsych, a global provider of employee assistance programs, said they were losing sleep over the sad state of the economy.

“They struggle with how to use this check and pay that bill,” Waterman said. “Sleep deprivation can lead to other behaviors.”

The woman who lost her job is well aware of depression’s classic symptoms because she is the daughter of a psychologist.

“Unhappiness? Check,” she said. “Self-doubt. Sure. Hopelessness? Check, sort of. Lethargy? Yup. Unable to get things done? Pretty much. Disturbed sleep? Absolutely.”

Tucson therapist Ky Resh said he is seeing an increase in the number of men who have been laid off whose wives are urging them to deal with their depression.

“Men in general will not ask for help,” Resh said. “They feel asking for help is failing.”
He said they see themselves as failures, too, for not living up to the traditional male role.
“Their job is to bring home the bacon,” he added, “and they’re not bringing it home.”

Resh said the holidays can act as a giant magnifying glass, intensifying feelings of inadequacy or failure.

“This is a tough season,” Resh said. “This is when loneliness is emphasized. People start saying: ‘I should have this, I should have that, I should have money to buy things for my kids.’”

Linda Moreno, a mental health advocate and president of the local NAMI chapter, said some people tend to isolate during the holiday season. “This becomes even more dramatic and made more real when they see all the wonderful ads for family gatherings,” she said.

Those who have families to visit may find it tough getting to them.
“This year people don’t have extra income to spend on travel, can’t afford to take time off or have no job to take time off from,” Moreno said.

Moreno, 53, lost her son, Daniel Moreno, to suicide in December 2005 and has lived with her own depression most of her adult life.

“The most important thing in recovery is stability,” Moreno said. “Obviously with this economic crisis we’re going through, stability has become upset.”

Whatever your economic setbacks, you have some control over how you respond to them, experts say.

“If you don’t have the money to buy your kids gifts, give them something they really want, which is your time and attention,” Resh said.

Other solutions, shared at a recent meeting of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, include socializing with friends, family and loved ones, listening to music, playing with a pet and exercise.

“Above all, don’t beat yourself up. Fight back against hopeless thoughts,” said the woman who is still struggling through her unemployment.

“The key is to move forward in some way rather than feel helpless and hopeless.”

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