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Out of Work May Mean Out of Sorts
Date:8/19/2010

employed people were four times more likely to think of harming themselves and twice as likely to report substance or alcohol abuse or worries about their mental health.

"People are anxious and people are depressed," Dr. Nada Stotland, a psychiatry professor at Rush Medical College in Chicago, said of the current state of many Americans. "They're just very, very discouraged. They have trouble sleeping. They may have trouble eating, or they may stuff their mouths with whatever's flying past."

At a time when they need professional help more than ever, many people have less access to it, the survey also revealed. About half of the survey participants who were unemployed said they had difficulty obtaining health care. Of those who hadn't spoken to a doctor about their mental health concerns, 42 percent said it was because the care was too expensive or they didn't have insurance to cover it.

Stotland said she has seen this in her own practice. "What happens is not necessarily that people don't come in," she said. "It's a concern that they don't come in because they lose their insurance or don't have the money. I have two patients who are in that bind right now."

She said she's urged them to come in anyway, explaining that the financial issues can wait, but people often are reluctant to feel as if they're taking advantage or freeloading.

For those who do have health insurance, the government's new mental health parity rules might relieve some of the pressure. The rules require that group health insurance plans for businesses with more than 50 employees treat mental health benefits on a par with standard medical and surgical coverage in terms of out-of-pocket costs, benefit limits and plan management practices, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But unless unemployed people have access to COBRA, a program that offers continued coverage for a time in such situations, they may not benefit from the new rules.


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