Getting Through Tough Economic Times Without Substance Abuse

Recent articles in the press have pointed to concerns of an increase in antisocial activity given these challenging economic times. The National Council on Substance Abuse acknowledges that economic downturns can be frightening to everyone, but reminds us that there are coping mechanisms – engaging in healthy activities, positive thinking, supportive relationships, and seeking help when needed from health professionals.

Possible Health Risks

Economic turmoil (e.g., increased unemployment, inability to pay mortgages, loss of investments) can have a negative effect on our health – both physical and mental.  Although each of us is affected differently by economic troubles, these problems can add tremendous stress, which in turn can substantially increase the risk for developing such problems as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive Behaviors (over-eating, excessive gambling, spending, etc.)
  • Substance Abuse

Warning Signs

It is important to be aware of signs that financial problems may be adversely affecting your emotional or mental well being — or that of someone you care about. These signs include:

  • Persistent Sadness/Crying
  • Excessive Anxiety
  • Lack of Sleep/Constant Fatigue
  • Excessive Irritability/Anger
  • Increased drinking
  • Illicit drug use, including misuse of medications
  • Difficulty paying attention or staying focused
  • Apathy – not caring about things that are usually important to you
  • Not being able to function as well at work, school or home

Managing Stress

If you or someone you care about is experiencing these symptoms, you are not alone. These are common reactions to stress, and there are coping techniques that you can use to help manage it. They include:

  • Trying to keep things in perspective – recognize the good aspects of life and retain hope for the future.
  • Strengthening connections with family and friends who can provide important emotional support.
  • Engaging in activities such as physical exercise, sports or hobbies that can relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Developing new employment skills that can provide a practical and highly effective means of coping and directly address financial difficulties.

Getting Help

Even with these coping techniques, however, sometimes these problems can become overwhelming and you may need additional help to get through “rough patches.” Fortunately, there are many people and services that can provide help. These include your:

  • Healthcare provider
  • Spiritual leader
  • School counselor
  • Community Group

Suicide Warning Signs

Unemployment and other kinds of financial distress do not “cause” suicide directly, but they can increase the likelihood that an individual may try to take his or her life. These environmental factors can cause strong feelings such as humiliation and despair, which can precipitate suicidal thoughts or actions among those who may already be vulnerable to having these feelings because of life-experiences or underlying mental or emotional conditions (e.g., depression, bi-polar disorder) that place them at greater risk of suicide.

These are some of the signs you may want to be aware of in trying to determine whether you or someone you care about could be at risk for suicide:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself
  • Thinking or fantasying about suicide
  • Acting recklessly
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

If you or someone you care about are having suicidal thoughts or showing these symptoms SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP.

The NCSA continues to encourage community-based organizations and groups to provide increased levels of support, however small, to those who are severely affected by the economy. It is only through working together to help all members of the community build their resiliency, that individuals successfully return to healthy and productive lives.

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