By Contributor on October 13, 2010

Unemployment is a mental health issue, and we must address it.

Clinical depression affects nearly one in 10 Americans, according to a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And unemployment is the biggest risk factor causing depression. While 6 percent of people with jobs exhibit signs of depression, 21 percent of unemployed people have symptoms, the survey revealed.

This may be why blacks and Hispanics and other people of color are more likely to become depressed than whites, since people of color have much higher unemployment rates.

 Given the strong correlation between unemployment and depression, it stands to reason that tough economic times will only worsen this major health problem in America. Although the official unemployment stands at 9.6 percent, the real rate is likely much higher, since official statistics do not include people who are underemployed or have given up all hopes of finding a job. A record 20 million-plus were on unemployment at some time in 2009. What’s more, almost 7 million people were counted as long-term unemployed in June — 46 percent of the total — the worst since 1948. With five applicants for every job, and a loss of 10 million jobs in the United States, almost everyone knows someone who is jobless, and the toll that it is taking on them and their families. As someone who was without work for a year during this recession, I can attest to the effect that it can have one one’s mental state, outlook on life and sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, some lawmakers and commentators have made light of the problems of the unemployed by telling them they are lazy and spoiled. But that helps neither their job prospects nor their mental state. If America wants to get serious about stemming the tide of depression and unemployment, we must get our priorities in order. That means more funding for mental health care, and a government commitment to creating jobs for everyone. David A. Love is a writer based in Philadelphia, and the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com. His blog is davidalove.com. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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