Economic crisis creating extra stress

October 14, 2008 1:47:21 AM PDT
The cost of the current economic crisis can be measured in more than dollars. In the Bay Area, it's also taking its toll psychologically.

Wild swings on Wall Street may be the most visible example of the recent economic panic. But for months, a different kind of economic indicator has been lighting up in the Bay Area.

Calls to mental health crisis lines have risen dramatically since the economic downturn.

At Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, directors say psychiatric admissions jumped about four fold in August, with roughly 60 percent of patients blaming financial stress for at least part of the problem.

"You bring them into the office and you find out there house has been foreclosed, they're stocks are down, and they're stressed and that's what's brought out the underlining psychiatric illness," said Kaiser Permanente Chief Of Psychiatry Dr. Mason Turner.

He says for some patients, the added pressure has triggered relapses of issues like substance abuse.

While others are like computer analyst Mark Hayden, who battled anxiety trying to make ends meet after the market collapse.

"It's month to month, things are very tight right now. I'm trying to figure out what vital," said Hayden.

In Contra Costa County, which was especially hard hit by the mortgage meltdown, calls have shot up about 20 percent, according to Director of Crisis Center John Bateson.

"We're seeing people who are losing homes, and renters having to leave apartments because they're being foreclosed, individuals who are losing jobs," said Bateson.

He says case workers are directing many first time callers to county assistance programs as well as mental health services.

Back at Kaiser, Turner agrees that treating the anxiety alone with traditional therapies like medication may be of less value in this crisis, than practical counseling.

"What I'll frequently do with patients is try to identify what they need to do to get out of the situation. Do they need to apply for credit, refinance their house you really need to think in practical terms of what do they really need to do," said Turner.

For Hayden, that's meant prioritizing the things that are really essential in his life.

"I feel that I've got enough assets, personal assets if not financial, to have a good chance at success in life," said Hayden.

If you're experiencing mental health issues from the economic crisis call 211. It is the service available in most Bay Area counties that can link you up with a variety of services.

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