By Jennifer Foran
As the global economy has struggled many of us have faced and are facing financial hardship. There are a number of us struggling with mounting debts, unemployment, lower salaries which can be quite overwhelming and cause us to feel anxious and stressed.
Depression has been closely linked to ongoing financial hardship The number of people suffering anxiety, depression and stress because of redundancies, job insecurity and pay cuts is rapidly increasing due to the recession. According to the World Health Organisation in many European countries, about one third of new disability benefits are attributable to mental health conditions, and this share is increasing. This has resulted in the term ‘recession depression’. At a time when people are anxious about their job security and their finances, recession-depression is a real and growing concern.
The impact of job uncertainty, recession and lower pay depends on the individuals coping strategies, support network, gender, age and health. Generally if we were to look at the population as a whole, employees who are faced with uncertainty in their job are four times more likely to deal with mental illness than those in employment. A study carried out by Roehampton University in the UK cites that among people who have lost their jobs in the last year, 71% have suffered symptoms of depression, 55% stress and 52% experienced symptoms of anxiety. Middle classes were more likely to experience depression than those in other social economic groups.
It is also widely reported that men have an increased risk of mental health problems than women. This may be that in Western Society men are put under a great deal of pressure to perform well and exude strength. Also, on the whole men seem to be more reluctant to talk to others about their stress and depressive symptoms, whereas women tend to be more open and are able to seek support.
Over time stress and anxiety can really take its toll. Worry, fear, hostility, aggression, sorrow, depression, loneliness are among the emotional responses to unemployment and mounting debt, lower salaries, higher workload, etc. In the more extreme cases self harm and suicidal thoughts.
It can impact a person’s health, emotional functioning and relationships. It can change the way we live, not only in our external environment but also internally, self and identity change. We can lose self-confidence and self-esteem. We can lose sleep, Family relationships can deteriorate. If depression is left untreated then it can impact an individual’s ability to find work.Job insecurity and unemployment are also linked to increase in alcohol and drug consumption. Suicidal rates are also said to increase. People who are unemployed are two to three times more likely to die by suicide than those in employment. In Ireland in the 1990s, there was a 44% increase in alcohol consumptions and a 41% increase in suicide.
Personal coping strategies, practical help and emotional support received from family, friends and services can determine how an individual is affected by unemployment and job insecurity. Talking to family and friends can really help. Talking to a GP’s can also help.
In Britain, to combat ‘recession depression’, the government are setting up a scheme whereby employees who have lost their jobs are offered counselling. The plan by the government is to train 3,600 therapists to run centres throughout Britain. At a time when anxiety, stress and depression are heightened it seems only fair that people in Ireland should have access to services. There are some organisations that are providing free counselling services. Accord, Aware, Auras, Samaitiarian and Console to name a few, but these are also feeling the pinch in the downturn. At a time when the government should be investing in mental health initiatives, their have been cutbacks.
Some individuals are seeking counselling and psychotherapy for the first time. Talking to a trained professional can provide a stable and supportive relationship that can help to ease with emotional distress and provide emotional support. It can help an individual to work through depression, stress and anxiety and find a better way to understand and manage it. It can look at ways to expand and improve an individual’s social relationships, problem solve skills and can help many clients deal with stressors in a direct, constructive, and proactive manner.
It has been common for therapists because of the current climate to work with clients who have been struggling with limited financial resources. However, at a time when people should be seeking help therapists are seeing less and less people. This one can imagine is mainly due to financial restraints. Therapists have responded by introducing sliding fee scales and low cost counselling options.
What is important is that individuals get the help that they need because left untreated, depression could lead into a “vicious cycle of related disability and an inability to work”.
© Jennifer Foran