Jobs are a cure for depression

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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