"Recession and its Impact" (Garda Review)

Recession and its impact

Published in the Garda Review March 2009

Mark Reddy writes on the impact of recession on our mental welfare.

Ireland has been dealt a blow from which we will not fully recover for many years; it impacts us financially, but to a much greater extent mentally.

Life involved working long hours, spending money and getting on the property ladder. We dialled a phone to have our dinner delivered. Those that delivered our meals drove bigger cars than us. Our TVs are flat, our floors wooden and our homes expensive; we were unconcerned taking loans and banks offered us credit beyond the norm; the most frugal of us living beyond our means, and why not? Sure weren’t we all in the same boat.

But then the unimaginable happened. We have at least one friend on the dole, you can’t pick up a paper without reading of cutbacks, a failing housing market, increased levies and pending strikes and disputes. Everyone has an opinion but few a long term solution.

Faced with decreased salaries and a high cost of living, some invested in a second home and now have this added burden, others involved family in guaranteeing loans, plans for retirement may now be completely halted. The impact of this on our sense of worth and social status brings pressure on ourselves and our families, bringing despair.

We might find ourselves completely exhausted, overrun by stress and in fear for the future. This change in our circumstances impacts on our sense of security to adapt and meet these new challenges. Some are able to cope and adapt but others are not and these are the people we need to support. Failure to adapt will impact on our abilities to see anything positive in life. Blinded by our inability to cope and adapt results in helplessness and this sense of insecurity, worry and stress will, if not treated lead the vulnerable to the onset of other psychiatric illnesses.
We may comfort seek unhealthy behaviours such as alcohol and drug abuse, overeating or other addictive behaviours, all of which will add to our difficulties.

Untreated, the long term negative impacts of anxiety can lead to depression and a sense of hopelessness. Hopelessness can be a predictor to suicide and needs addressing. Depression can impact on health and ability to fend off illness. Hopelessness will increase the risk of those we place most demands on; they risk deterioration in their own health and mental well being. The impact of not addressing our issues will have a greater impact on our loved ones.

When we are aware of the facts we are better able to adapt and change our behaviours and outlooks in order to be better able to deal with the issues at hand. It’s imperative to know that firstly that none of us are alone in this.

If you find yourself in this position seek help. Don’t overcomplicate by imaging others don’t want to know. An ability to express fears and concerns will give the opening to others to do the same. Look to family for support; ask yourself would you give help to someone in need, if so then you can bet that others will do the same for you. Deal first with stresses that are impacting on you and your health.

Deal with the practical worries in a practical way, gardaĆ­ have several agencies they can approach, primarily the garda Employee Assistance Service. Outside of this there are many services established to provide professional care and advice.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice and support and believe in yourself that you have the strength to get through this and learn some valuable lesson while doing so. We are at a time when we have to assess what is valuable to us. Some things are more important than others.

Many thanks to Neil Ward Editor of the Garda Review for his kindness and support.

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