The Effects of the Current Economy on Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

The bleak economy has had many impacts on our lives as Americans.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not been affected in someway by the financial situation of the last few months.

Money Trouble
Money troubles are being spread to every aspect of life.  People who have invested their hard-earned money over the years are finding that in a matter of weeks, they have lost huge amounts of their savings.  This has led to people not spending as much money, or investing as much, which has led to businesses struggling to stay afloat.  Countless companies are laying off employees, putting these now unemployed people in a far worse financial situation.  A downward cycle has begun, and for many people, the end is nowhere in sight.

Many Turn to Substance Abuse
This time of crisis is especially difficult for people suffering with substance abuse or mental illness.  Aggravated by a poor outlook, people are being driven to use drugs or alcohol to ease their worries, and suicide is a very real thought for some.  Suicide rates are predicted to increase two to three times in the next year because of the current economy.  Other problems, such as domestic violence, depression, and child neglect, are also increasing.  The more on-edge and upset people get about their financial situation, the less control they have and the more these problems seem to surface.

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Treatment Trouble
Substance abuse treatment facilities have seen a big increase in the number of patients in the last few months.  Usually it is not during the good days that a person tries to get sober, but rather during the really low times.  Some facilities have had to accommodate upwards of 30% more patients recently.

While it is good for people to seek help and treatment, it is becoming more and more difficult for some places to give that treatment.  Government funding has decreased in many cases, and unemployment or loss of benefits has made it difficult for some patients to pay their bills.  Hospitals and some clinics have been forced to cut staff to keep up with the economic times; decreasing the number of patients they are able to help.

Other patients are feeling helpless because they know their employer will not hold their job for them while they go through treatment, or they know there won’t be any new jobs out there if they would quit or lose their job.  This has caused some people to avoid treatment or at least avoid inpatient treatment.

Hope for the Future
It is important to remember that there is help out there for those suffering with substance abuse or mental illness.  Hotlines are available for those in a desperate situation, and there are many facilities that are able to provide effective treatment for addiction and mental illness.  Now is the time for families to encourage one another and work together to get needed help, because it will be much easier to weather this economic storm being sober.

Sources
Thurber, Kathleen Substance abuse counselor says slow economy means increased clientele January 30, 2009

McCoppin, Robert Economy swamps suburban hospitals with depression, substance abuse 11/20/2008

Amoni, Marissa Economy down, demand up at Crisis Line February 8, 2009

Tough Economy Increases Suicide, Family Violence

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