April 29, 2009 / 8:56 AM / 10 years ago

Recession drives more Australians into depression

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - More than one million Australians are expected to experience depression or a mental related disorder this year as the economy falters amid the global financial crisis, mental health counselors say.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the number of Australians currently estimated to be living with depression or some form of anxiety disorder is just over three million out of a total population of about 21 million.

BeyondBlue, a non-profit group helping to prevent depression, anticipates an additional million or so will need help with mental issues this year, and recently put together a booklet with tips on looking after health and well-being in the current financial situation.

“I do think more people are going to seek help to solve their finances and so there has been some increased demand on people providing financial counseling,” Michael Baigent, a clinical adviser for BeyondBlue, told Reuters.

Financial counseling helps ease worries and anxiety about money or job related issues which are can cause mental health problems.

Tony Devlin, a coordinator at the Salvation Army’s “Money Care” service, said he has seen more people seeking help because of what’s happening globally and locally.

“I would suspect there was a direct link between the current financial crisis and depression,” Devlin told Reuters.

“Once upon a time you could sell your property and have something left over, with the falling house prices there’s nothing but bankruptcy, so you can imagine people are not in very good psychological states,” he added.

Australia’s economy is widely seen as having fallen into recession in the first quarter of 2009, after a 0.5 percent contraction in the final quarter of 2008, while the jobless rate jumped to 5.7 percent in March, its highest in over five years.

The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at A$20 billion Australian dollars ($14.30 billion), which includes the cost of lost productivity and labor force participation.

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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