Hanford: Resources out there to help the laid off with mental health

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldOctober 22, 2011 

Losing a job can be a significant event -- so significant the stress can take its toll on the person's mental health, which in turn can lead to physical symptoms.

And a lot of people might not recognize that what they are experiencing as depression, but help is available for those experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety following a job loss, mental health officials said.

Many people know that depression can be accompanied by suicidal thoughts or feelings of persistent sadness, but depression also can be marked by anger; chronic headaches or digestive problems; excessive guilt; fatigue; feelings of emptiness, helplessness or worthlessness; insomnia or sleep problems; irritability; lack of concentration; changes in appetite; loss of interest in once-loved activities and loss of memory.

People with anxiety can experience excessive worrying, racing or irregular heartbeat, sleeping problems, muscle tension and a general inability to be calm and still.

Diagnosis typically is made when symptoms persist or become chronic.

"Depression is not feeling sad or blue or down in the dumps for a day. It's an extended period of time," said Barbara Mead, executive director of Lourdes Counseling Center in Richland.

And it is a myth that people can just get over depression or anxiety with positive thinking -- it's a medical problem that requires treatment, whether that's counseling or medication.

"The sooner people can get into treatment the better," said Tim Hoekstra, Lourdes Counseling's director of outpatient services. "One thing that is known is that males tend to be more reluctant to get into treatment sooner. They will wait until things get really bad. Seeking treatment sooner rather than later can prevent additional problems. Early treatment is the best."

Mead and Hoekstra recommend people experiencing symptoms start by seeking support from a counselor or perhaps a church pastor and talking to their family physician.

If symptoms don't abate by talking, medication might help the person through the rough patch.

Not everyone who loses a job will need help, but those who do shouldn't be afraid to ask, Mead said.

"One of the things that sounds sort of like a 'duh' statement is the people who are going to be the most vulnerable are the people who already are experiencing significant stress in their lives -- significant stress at home or health care problems, then this new stressor of being out of a job or difficulty finding work," she said.

"Many people are able to deal with this change in their life without support from the mental health system," she said. "Some people are not and that's what we're here for."

A range of counseling and medical services are available in the Tri-Cities for people with insurance. For those without insurance, Lourdes and Tri-Cities Community Health offer mental health services on a sliding scale, although both also accept patients with insurance, and Grace Clinic offers free services to people who are uninsured or underinsured and whose income falls at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

For uninsured people who can afford to pay a lump sum up front, Reliance Medical Clinics in Richland is offering a new program in partnership with Antilia Health in which patients can pay a one-time fee for a year's worth of mental health services that can be used as needed throughout the year.

* Lourdes Counseling: 943-9104

* Tri-Cities Community Health: 545-6506

* Grace Clinic: 735-2300

* Reliance: 420-0423

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