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February 15, 2010

by: David Pitman

It's hard to put an exact number on just how many people become depressed because they're unemployed. But several studies in recent years have found those without a job are anywhere from two to four times more likely to experience depression.

"Y'know, you lose your job. You think 'well, I'm gonna lose my home, I'm gonna lose my family, I'm gonna lose my identity, I'm gonna lose my career.' Those type of thoughts will lead to someone having a depressive episode."

Glenn Urbach is the executive director of the Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance of Greater Houston. He says it can be difficult for those suffering with depression symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, insomnia, changes in appetite, and a general loss of interest, to realize what's going on.

"They don't understand depression, they've never had a depressive episode, their family doesn't understand. The inability to understand mental illness really is almost the core why people have these depressive episodes. They don't look for the warning signs, they don't know about the warning signs, and they don't get the help they need."

Urbach acknowledges one big obstacle in getting help is the loss of health insurance to help pay for anti-depressants and therapy. He says that's where groups like the Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance come in.

"No one should ever, even if they lose their health insurance, should ever throw their hands up in the air. There's always resources out there. If people can just make a couple of phone call, either to our office, or Mental Health of America, which is a great organization to give people referrals. There is help out there."

The DBSA sponsors three dozen weekly support group meetings in the Houston area, all of them free of charge. Some are lead by people who understand what it's like to slide into a depressive episode while unemployed.

"My self-worth was attached to my job. So once I lost that, I began to feel worthless."

Carmen, who asked that her last name not be used, leads a support group in Westchase. She says her experience in group therapy forced her to think about who she was and how she was worth something in a way that wasn't tied to her job. She says that approach can work for others.

"And you may come out on the other end a different person, a better person with a better, clearer perspective of who you are. And that's a form of success."