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In These Tough Times:
Seeking Help is Sign of Strength,
By Jamie Becker
National Mental Health Resources
United Way 2-1-1 Call Center, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
2-1-1 provides free, confidential and multi-lingual information and referral. Call 2-1-1 for help with food, housing, rent assistance, utility bill assistance, health care, counseling, child care, senior assistance and more. Learn more about your local 2-1-1 by calling 2-1-1 directly from wherever you are or looking it up on the web:
National Suicide Hotlines USA
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
Over the last several years, many LIUNA members have endured tremendous stress and strain, often fueled by financial issues due to a decrease in hours or a loss of work altogether. And for many, that stress and strain will continue. Members have watched their savings dwindle; some are behind on their mortgages or worse; some have lost their homes. It is understandable and not uncommon that this prolonged trial turns into feelings of anxiety, depression or even hopelessness. A 2007 study showed the construction industry with the fourth highest level of depression, and that was before the recent financial crisis really hit.
"Seeking help to deal with negative feelings caused by stressful circumstances can be difficult," says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. "To some people, seeking help may feel shameful, embarrassing and seen as a sign of weakness. It is important to know there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help. It actually takes a lot of strength to ask for it."
Sabitoni stresses that mental health issues are real and can be serious, regardless of how they are caused. Left untreated, mental health issues can greatly impair one’s ability to work, to cope, to problem-solve, to sleep, eat or exercise and to try and move forward. Mental health conditions also can impair progress in addressing physical health and chronic conditions. The impact of untreated mental health issues on individuals as well as their families can be devastating.
Common Signs of Depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite or weight changes
Cost is sometimes viewed as a major roadblock to seeking mental health assistance. However, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Mental Health Parity Act) acknowledges that mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders are as real and legitimate as medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Mental health parity allows people with a covered illness to have equal coverage and treatment allowances in a given plan regardless of whether it is a medical or mental health condition. Parity allows LIUNA members with plans providing mental health and substance abuse services to access those services that were once considered unaffordable under previous benefit plan designs. The new parity rules should be viewed as an opportunity for Laborers and their families to get the mental health treatment that they need.
Members should consult their H&W fund plan to determine the extent of their mental health benefit. Check to see if a Member Assistance Program (MAP) exists either through a health and welfare fund or through one’s employer. If a member has lost eligibility, other resources are available.
"Our Fund strongly encourages any Laborer or a family member struggling with feelings of stress, strain or depression due to financial or other challenges to seek the help they need," says Sabitoni. "Help is available, and it will make a difference."
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA's Associate Director, Health Promotion.]