By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – With the economy still in a dismal state, more people are finding themselves depressed or anxious. In most cases, they are able to deal with it on their own. But sometimes, the pressure can be intense, leaving them feeling lost, alone and overwhelmed.
The professionals at the Westborough Youth and Family Services (WYFS) and the Assabet Valley Pastoral Counseling Center (AVPCC) know that. That's why they are once again participating in the National Depression Screening Day Thursday, Oct. 6, as a way to help local residents who find they are dealing with stressors that are negatively impacting either their lives and/or the lives of their family members.
For the screenings, residents are asked to contact the WYFS to schedule a free, confidential screening. After making the appointment, they will then go to the WYFS offices at the Forbes Municipal Building, 45 West Main St., where they will fill out a questionnaire and then be given the opportunity to discuss their answers with a counselor.
Eileen Reich is a WYFS counselor.
“All of this is completely confidential,” she said. “We only ask for a person's first name when they call and a phone number in case we need to reach them before the appointment.
“If any follow-up is needed or requested, we give them names of mental health service providers to contact,” she added. “But it is entirely up to them to follow up; we don's force or pressure them. We don's keep any lists and in fact, everything can be shredded after we meet with them.”
Although there is still sometimes a stigma associated with depression and related conditions, Reich said people often feel relieved to finally get their questions and feelings out in the open.
“They'se been waiting for a chance to talk to someone,” she said. “It's time. They want to feel better.”
Many times, if a family breadwinner is out of work for a prolonged period of time or if the family finances are severely tested, it is not just the adults feeling the stress and pressure, she noted.
“Depression can affect a whole family. Children notice when their parents are worried,” Reich said. “They may not verbalize their feelings, but they internalize them instead.”
Some of the ways kids may show signs of depression include a decreased ability to concentrate; a drop in school grades; uncharacteristic or excessive irritability; stomachaches or headaches; moodiness; low self-esteem; frequent sadness or hopelessness; and substance abuse or other unsafe behaviors.
Reich said that many studies show there is a clear link between the state of the economy and anxiety and depression.
“A NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) study, partnered with the Mental Health Association (MHA), showed that 13 percent of unemployed adults had thoughts of harming themselves compared to 3 percent who had full-time employment. The unemployed are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
“Another study showed that 71 percent of those who had lost their jobs had experienced symptoms of depression,” she said. “There is also a connection between the economy and suicide risks.”
The Depression Screening Day is open to residents of any age. If that day does not work for whatever reason, Reich said residents may contact the office to set up an appointment for another day.
“People can call us at anytime, not just for that day,” she said. “We are here to help whenever you need us.”
To contact the WFYS offices, call 508-366-3090.