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US Economic Downturn Causes Anxiety, Mental Stress Among Jobless

The U.S. Labor Department reported on March 13 that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits reached a record high.

As more companies lay off workers, mental health advocates are becoming concerned about the stress of unemployment.

A few months ago, police in southern California found the body of a husband and wife, three sons and mother-in-law.

A police officer read the suicide note written by the husband who had lost his job and life savings:

"He takes responsibility for the taking of the lives of his family members and himself as a result of those financial difficulties," the policeman read.

Many people are finding themselves in a state of anxiety as they worry about the loss of their jobs and investments.

Psychologist Doree Lynn sees many patients who fear for their future. "People wonder, especially if they are affiliated with their job or their identity is connected with their job, they wonder, 'who am I?'" she said.

It can be a battle to keep up your spirits when you are out of work. Jon Rothenberg knows. He returned to Washington, DC last October, after years of working on disaster relief in Afghanistan.

Rothenberg says he is surprised by how long it is taking to find a job. "Every month that I'm not working, that's more of my savings that I'm eating up," he says, "So, yes, it's very worrisome and it's very upsetting."

Rothenberg has become active in a career counseling organization, called FortyPlus, in Washington.

The group's director, Joel Sarfati, says the members provide emotional support for each other: "It's not unusual for somebody to walk in and they're sort of low today," Sarfati said. "The other five people happen to be in the office at that point in time and try to bring you up."

Dr. Lynn agrees that a support system of others who share your experience, as well as family members, can help. Maintain a routine, she says, and get some exercise. "Anything that keeps you walking, moving, it just siphons off anxiety. But relationships are the single best cure," she said.

Rothenberg says don't keep your situation a secret. Let others know about your job search because you never know who might know about an opening.