Labrador City -
No situation is hopeless, even in times of economic uncertainty.
That's the message Deanne Costello, regional director of Mental Health and Addictions Services, wants people to remember.
Anger, depression and additional physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia and panic attacks can become issues when people are having a hard time, Costello said, but it's important for people to realize that no matter how hopeless life may seem, there are ways to cope.
"Typically we would see people who are dealing with a lot of feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear, panic and all those kinds of feelings," she said. "Oftentimes when people are financially stressed, they tend to make poorer financial decisions and we would expect to see people who are experiencing helplessness and hopelessness."
Costello said that once people feel helpless, they get stuck and can't move forward, so the first plan of action should be to talk to a friend, loved one or another objective third party who can give some perspective.
"You should rely on the people who already support you - family, friends, co-workers," she said. "Anybody can use some encouragement or have someone listen to them sometimes."
Costello recommends that families keep children in the loop when it comes to financial difficulties; she said they don't need all the gory details, but it doesn't hurt to give them general information and let them know the family is working on a plan to ease the impacts.
She said kids learn coping skills by observing their parents, so it's a learning opportunity for everybody, and should be accompanied by reassurances.
One of the most important keys in coping, Costello added, is looking after yourself first.
"That might be hard for some people because they think they have to look after their significant other, their kids or their parents, but people really need to concentrate on keeping themselves healthy because if they aren't healthy, they aren't going to be able to look after anybody else anyway," she said.
Eating right, limiting alcohol, avoiding drugs and exercising are good ways to stay healthy in an economic crisis, she said, and it helps to remember there are many other people going through hard times as well.
People should also try to keep to a routine and deal with issues head-on and one at a time, Costello said.
"Don't avoid dealing with creditors," she pointed out. "If you avoid your creditors, you're perceived as not looking for solutions and most of the time you end up getting referred to a collection agency. At least if you deal with your creditors, you're making an attempt to deal with the situation."
There are many good credit-counselling companies - and some are not-for-profit - people can take advantage of, and there are guidelines in place to prevent harassment by creditors and financial institutions through Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs (www.consumer.ic.gc.ca). It helps to know your rights.
Costello also recommends that people set a budget, carefully weigh their needs and wants, and simplify life as much as possible.
"Food, shelter, prescription medications, those are necessities," she said. "Things that may not fit into the needs category are things like vacation, unnecessary clothing purchases, dining out and that kind of thing. It's a matter of changing our perspective and changing our expectations. …
"If we take some time every day to consider the good things we do have - which can be hard to focus on when you're going through a personal crisis - I think we can find a couple of things every day to be thankful for."
Costello said it's also important to note there are services out there to help people who feel like things are slipping out of control, including mental health and addictions counsellors.