Job Loss And Depression

Job loss not only affects individuals financially - it can affect their mental health as well. Dr. Sudeepta Varma, Psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center, explains.

On February 19, 2009, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans who are unemployed hit a record high for the fourth week in a row. Those who have lost their jobs not only worry about money or paying their mortgage, but also their families and how society views them. With all this stress, unemployed folks can end up depressed and lonely as they try to fill the void.

"Spouses are fighting more often, people may turn to drugs or alcohol, smoking, overeating," says Dr. Varma. "Losing the job... isn't so much the problem, but the anxiety and the depression and the substance abuse [that can follow]... are often extremely more damaging than the job loss."

Historically, the suicide rate follows the unemployment rate; Dr. Varma says that suicide rates do tend to go up during times of economic crisis. However, "There is help and there is awareness," she adds.

How can you tell if a loved one is depressed or at risk for suicide? Watch out for changes in normal sleeping and eating habits. If your loved one is binge eating or not eating at all, or if they seem to be sleeping a lot more or suffering from insomnia, you may need to intervene. "Any changes in one extreme or the other," says Dr. Varma, are key signs that they may be depressed.

Loss of focus and concentration is also a sign of depression. "People have a hard time reading books, focusing on the television," says Dr. Varma.

Other people may just tell you flat out that they don't think they can go on with their life. "That's a huge warning sign for suicide," says Dr. Varma. "In that situation, if someone's feeling that hopeless, take the person to the emergency room."

Depression and suicidal thoughts can be treated with medication and emotional therapy - there is hope. If you're not sure what to do about a family member or friend who may be depressed or suicidal, call 1-800-LIFENET or 1-800-543-3638.

By Erin Petrun
  • CBSNews

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