February 5, 2009

Recession May Contribute to Rise in Gannett Counseling

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As America’s financial well-being continues to suffer from the economic recession, individuals likewise share the pain from the emotional repercussions that come with the stress of increased financial hardship.
Matt Boone, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services and coordinator of the “Let’s Talk” program at Gannett, said he has seen evidence that the finance crisis affecting the mental health of the Cornell community.
“I’ve seen from myself in my own practice and have heard from my colleagues that students are [more often] presenting issues of anxiety relating to the financial situation, whether it’s things going on in their own family … or whether they are worried for themselves about internships or future jobs,” Boone said.
At Cornell, the number of patients that come to Gannett for counseling each year has steadily increased over the past decade, according to Dr. Gregory Eells, associate director of Gannett Health Services and CAPS. The number of counseling patients has increased by 9 percent this year, but Eells believes that the financial crisis cannot be pinpointed as the direct cause of this increase.
“It’s hard to say that [financial stress] is the trigger because there are a lot of other issues and stressors that are likely to trigger those underlying conditions. However, an economic downturn like this could definitely trigger [these conditions],” Eells said.
Demand for Gannett counseling services peaks from late September through Thanksgiving, and in the spring months of March and April. During these times, Gannett sees on average 60 to 70 new people per week, according to Eells. Over 2,800 Cornell students seek counseling services each year, totaling over 20,000 visits, according to Gannett’s website.
In recent months, reports across the country have surfaced detailing how the recession has caused mental unrest. Last week, The New York Times reported that a Los Angeles man shot and killed his wife, five children and himself after losing his job. A few weeks ago, another man fatally shot his wife and three children before taking his own life. He cited financial stress in a suicide note.
To combat the recent media coverage of suicide and mental health issues tied to the financial crisis, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention released an article warning against the media sensationalizing suicide and the complicated nature of mental health disorders.
“Since the most recent statistics on suicide rates are from 2005, it is nearly impossible to determine the effect, if any, that the recent economic downturn has had on the nation’s suicide rate,” the article stated.
In addition to seeking help when needed, Boone suggested minimizing exposure to the more dramatic descriptions of the financial situations, focusing on close relationships and support networks while taking control through action plans to get through these stressful times.
Gannet offers a variety of counseling services to the Cornell community to deal with these trying times. The CAPS program provides crisis intervention, counseling, outpatient psychiatric care, outreach and referral services to Cornell students, as well as consultation and education to the greater Cornell community. Through confidential sessions with staff members, students are able to discuss their issues and work towards a greater level of mental well-being.
In addition, Gannett’s “Let’s Talk” program offers free and confidential support to all students at various locations around campus.