20 May, 2009

Effect of Recession

Effect of Recession anxieties driving youngsters to psychiatrists, smoking

Nikil Raw, 5, had everything going for him. A high-paying job with a Software company and engaged to be married to his sweetheart. Then, suddenly, the pink slip thunderbolt struck.

Raw, who did his MBA in the London, lost not just his job but also his girlfriend, who opted to marry someone else - who had a steady job.

Depressed, Raw tried to hang himself.

Samir Tondon, working in a private firm in Pune, saw his colleagues one by one being told to leave. While he is happy he still has his job, his anxiety is of a different kind.

His working hours have been increased, like those of the remaining employees, to compensate for the numbers sacked. The long working hours and the fear of being the next to be axed have taken a toll on his mental health.

To get over his anxiety he has picked up the habit of smoking and drinking.

Raw and Tondon are just two examples of how the global meltdown has affected hundreds - people have either lost their jobs or their salaries have been slashed.

The resultant depression, anxiety, stress and sleeping disorders are sending many people to seek medical help.

Nikil Raw was taken to a psychiatrist by his father.

"He has slowly come out of his depression and has started looking for jobs. But it will take him some time to get back his self esteem because of the dual blow."

"We are every day seeing people whose lives have been turned topsy-turvy due to the recession. Youngsters are literally living in fear of being jobless."

Most of the people who seek medical help belong to the middle or upper middle class. "They have either taken a car loan or a home loan. Many find it difficult to sleep or could be suffering from psychosomatic problems like acidity, headache. Some even complain of psycho-sexual problems".

What is worrying is that youngsters facing this problem are taking to smoking and drinking to forget their job-related stress, he said.

According to Vijay Sharma, consultant in the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Max Healthcare, in the past few weeks there has been an increase in the number of people who have come to him to speak about the recession and its impact on them.

"It's not millions of dollars but a few hundred rupees that disturbs the equilibrium of their homes," he said.

"I see an escalating number of people coming to seek help for depressive and anxiety symptoms. They speak of a fearful helplessness, of apprehension and anguish over their current financial situation," the leading psychiatrist said.

"It's a phase seen universally and will pass with time. It's important for people to feel that they can change their situation, handle the crisis with their own efforts. This of course can be further supported by motivation, counselling and guidance".

A psychiatrist with the Paras Hospital in Gurgaon, is also seeing a surge in patients.

"Most suffer from insomnia, anxiety disorder and depression," he said.

"For some the worry is that their dream plans of acquiring bigger cars, bigger houses, have come crashing because of recession. Many who have lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed have started experimenting with alcohol to obliterate their anxiety," he said.

Rahul Seth is one such executive. The 6-year-old was told a month ago that from their team of 21 people, five would be sacked.

"Since that announcement a month ago, I find it difficult to eat and sleep properly. I have taken up smoking and drinking. I now have high blood pressure to top it all. This pressure is so intense that it is affecting my health," he added.