Dealing With Mental Health Issues During a Financial Downturn

The economy is scary. In the past few years our national mood has gone from optimistic to pessimistic. Salaries have been slashed, retirement portfolios have tanked, and many jobs have been lost. Those who still have jobs are often afraid that they will lose them. In some towns and cities, home foreclosures are a common sight. And no one is sure when the economic turmoil will end.

All of this is difficult enough for people who don't normally struggle with mental health issues. While the effects of the stalled economy can cause depression in anyone, for those who tend toward depression or are already depressed, the financial downturn may be making the situation worse. A study released by the American Psychiatric Association shows that more than two-thirds of American women claim that the economy has had a negative impact on their lives or on the lives of their loved ones. And in one particularly hard-hit area that was studied, more than three-quarters of women interviewed said the same.

More than ever, it's important to have good coping strategies in place to deal with the stress of uncertain finances. But the difficulty of dealing with mental health issues during a financial downturn is that depression and anxiety can make it almost impossible to employ the sensible strategies needed to weather the storm. A depressed employee is less likely to make it in to work or to perform well on the job. He or she is less likely to think clearly about financial decisions or to stay focused on improving his or her skills in a narrowing job market. He or she may even forego professional help for fear that it is too expensive.

According to the Substance & Mental Health Services Administration, free or low-cost help is available. Good sources of support include doctors or other healthcare providers, spiritual leaders such as rabbis or priests, school counselors, and community health clinics. Local civic organizations can point unemployed workers to seminars or skill-building clinics that will help bolster confidence and instill faith in the future.

The silver lining to this financial funk? Many people are now motivated to pursue vocations that they love rather than ones that only provided them with fat paychecks previously. People are spending less time at work and more time with their children, partners, and friends. And many are learning to live more simply and make do with less, which can help keep things in perspective.




American Psychiatric Association

Substance & Mental Health Services Administration. Getting Through Tough Economic Times.