October 9, 2009

American - Recession & Mental Health - a survey

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Americans who are unemployed or underemployed face greater risk of severe mental illness, Mental Health America (MHA) said on Thursday.

Unemployed Americans are four times more likely than those with jobs to report symptoms of severe mental illness, such as major depression, said MHA, citing a survey of 1,002 adults aged 18 and older.

As for people who were forced to accept work changes, such as reduced hours or pay cuts, they were twice as likely to have symptoms, said the health group.

The survey was conducted last month by MHA, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression Is Real Coalition.

The three groups released the findings to coincide with Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4-10) and National Depression Screening Day (Oct. 8).

"This survey clearly shows that economic difficulties are placing the public's mental health at serious risk, and we need affirmative action to address these medical problems," said David L. Shern, president and CEO of MHA.

"Individuals confronting these problems should seek help for their problems -- talk to their doctor, trusted friend or advisor or mental health professional," he said.

"Unemployment today stands at almost 10 percent. Nationwide, we face a mental health crisis as well as an economic crisis," Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the NAMI, said in a press release.

"There is no shame in seeking help to overcome unemployment or a medical illness. For the sake of all our loved ones, it's important to learn to recognize symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses. Screening helps. Talk with a doctor about any concerns," Fitzpatrick advised.

Among the other survey findings:

-- 13 percent of unemployed people said they've had thoughts of harming themselves -- a rate four times higher than for those with full-time jobs;

-- Unemployed people are about six times more likely to have trouble meeting household expenses. Twenty-two percent said they have great difficulty paying their utilities, and nearly half said it's difficult for them to obtain health care, which further compounds their situation;

-- Respondents without jobs were twice as likely to report being concerned about their mental health or use of alcohol or drugs within the last six months; and

-- Nearly 20 percent of respondents said they'd had to accept forced changes, such as reduced hours or pay cuts, during the last year, and these people were five times more likely to report feeling hopeless most or all of the time than people who hadn't experienced a forced change at work.

Major depression affects about 15 million U.S. adults (5 percent to 8 percent of the adult population) each year. Only half of people with major depression seek treatment, regardless of their economic or employment situation, the survey found.

Editor: Yan
Original title: Recession puts public's mental health at risk: survey