Recession anxieties driving youngsters to psychiatrists, smoking

April 10th, 2009 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Mahavir Singh, 27, had everything going for him. A high-paying job with a BPO company and engaged to be married to his sweetheart. Then, suddenly, the pink slip thunderbolt struck.

Singh, who did his MBA in the US, lost not just his job but also his girlfriend, who opted to marry someone else - who had a steady job.

Depressed, Singh tried to hang himself.

Samir Chawla, working in a private firm in Noida, saw his colleagues one by one being told to leave. While he is happy he still has his job, his anxiety is of a different kind.

His working hours have been increased, like those of the remaining employees, to compensate for the numbers sacked. The long working hours and the fear of being the next to be axed have taken a toll on his mental health.

To get over his anxiety he has picked up the habit of smoking and drinking.

Singh and Chawla are just two examples of how the global meltdown has affected hundreds - people have either lost their jobs or their salaries have been slashed.

The resultant depression, anxiety, stress and sleeping disorders are sending many people to seek medical help.

Mahavir Singh was taken to a psychiatrist by his father.

“He has slowly come out of his depression and has started looking for jobs. But it will take him some time to get back his self esteem because of the dual blow,” said M.S. Bhatia, professor and head of department (psychiatry) at the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital.

“We are every day seeing people whose lives have been turned topsy-turvy due to the recession. Youngsters are literally living in fear of being jobless,” Singh told IANS.

Most of the people who seek medical help belong to the middle or upper middle class. “They have either taken a car loan or a home loan. Many find it difficult to sleep or could be suffering from psychosomatic problems like acidity, headache. Some even complain of psycho-sexual problems,” he said.

What is worrying is that youngsters facing this problem are taking to smoking and drinking to forget their job-related stress, he said.

According to Samir Parikh, consultant in the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Max Healthcare, in the past few weeks there has been an increase in the number of people who have come to him to speak about the recession and its impact on them.

“It’s not millions of dollars but a few hundred rupees that disturbs the equilibrium of their homes,” he said.

“I see an escalating number of people coming to seek help for depressive and anxiety symptoms. They speak of a fearful helplessness, of apprehension and anguish over their current financial situation,” the leading psychiatrist said.

Parikh said that apart from giving them therapy, psychiartists tell them not to blame themselves for the situation.

“It’s a phase seen universally and will pass with time. It’s important for people to feel that they can change their situation, handle the crisis with their own efforts. This of course can be further supported by motivation, counselling and guidance,” Parikh added.

Deepak Raheja, a psychiatrist with the Paras Hospital in Gurgaon, is also seeing a surge in patients.

“Most suffer from insomnia, anxiety disorder and depression,” he said.

“For some the worry is that their dream plans of acquiring bigger cars, bigger houses, have come crashing because of recession. Many who have lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed have started experimenting with alcohol to obliterate their anxiety,” he said.

Vishwa Guha is one such executive. The 25-year-old was told a month ago that from their team of 20 people, five would be sacked.

“Since that announcement a month ago, I find it difficult to eat and sleep properly. I have taken up smoking and drinking. I now have high blood pressure to top it all. This pressure is so intense that it is affecting my health,” he added.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at

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